As the nation’s highest-ranking military officer and senior uniformed advisor to the Commander-in-chief, Gen. Dempsey will join a recently reorganized Obama administration national security team in the midst of an unusually critical set of multiple tasks.
Among the challenges: military disengagement from Iraq, an unconventional war in Afghanistan that includes secret missions in Pakistan, foreseeing and planning for an evolving set of threats (some of them connected to violent political unrest in North Africa and the Middle East), and questions about major weapons systems and the disposition of US forces around the world as Washington struggles with difficult issues of budget and debt.
Dempsey, who replaces retiring US Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, faces Senate confirmation hearings – as he did when he took over the Army’s top job less than two months ago.
“During his 36 years of active service, General Dempsey is one who has never been satisfied with the status-quo – a quality I have always looked for when selecting our military’s senior leaders,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at the time. “He has always impressed me with his keen mind, strategic vision, quiet confidence and the energy he brings to every assignment…. A real soldier-scholar.”
As recent head of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, Gates added, “He has pushed the Army to become more versatile and decentralized, and overhauled its approach to war-fighting, publishing a new capstone concept that elevates adaptation to an institutional imperative.”
A 1974 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point (where he was a classmate of General David Petraeus), Dempsey twice commanded troops in Iraq – first, as commander of the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad during the first year of combat there, then as head of the Multi-National Security and Transition Command in 2005 training Afghan forces.
Several times during his career, Dempsey was fast-tracked into senior positions before being promoted with an additional general’s star.
During his White House Rose Garden announcement Monday, Obama called Dempsey “one of our nation’s most respected and combat tested generals.”
“I expect him to push all our forces to be ready for the military of tomorrow,” Obama said. “We will provide whatever it takes to achieve our objectives in the current fight.”
On April 28, Obama announced the new lineup of his national security team:
• CIA Director Leon Panetta will replace Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense.
• Afghan war commander General David Petraeus will retire from the Army to take over the CIA from Mr. Panetta.
• US Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Allen will become commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, replacing Gen. Petraeus.
• Veteran diplomat Ryan Crocker, a former ambassador to Iraq and Pakistan, was nominated to be the new Ambassador to Afghanistan, replacing retired Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry.
General Dempsey now is slated to join this group.
In his announcement Monday morning, Obama also nominated Navy Admiral James Winnefeld to be vice chair of the Joint Chiefs and Gen. Ray Odierno, the former commander of US troops in Iraq, to replace Dempsey as Army Chief of Staff.