Trump chooses new Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, against Mattis wishes

Aaron Brown
December 9, 2018

Trump is expected to announce his decision Saturday at the annual Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. Normally an announcement on a new chairman wouldn't be expected until early next year.

US President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn after returning to the White House in Washington, US, December 7, 2018. Milley would succeed Marine General Joseph Dunford, who would normally stay in office as chairman until a slated October 1, 2019 handover date.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff is made up of the heads of the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and National Guard.

Dunford's spokesman, Col. Patrick Ryder, said all indications are that Dunford will serve his full term. He said Dunford congratulated Milley on his nomination. Officials had said the Air Force chief, Gen. David Goldfein, was also a strong contender for the job. Past year he admonished the House Armed Services Committee for its inability to approve a defense budget, slamming it as "professional malpractice".

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In return, Washington said China would purchase "very substantial" amounts of United States agricultural, energy, industrial and other products.

It is unusual to make the announcement of the Defense Department's next top officer at a sporting event - even one as revered in military circles as the 128-year-old game between the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy - and reveal the decision some 10 months before the transition is scheduled to take place. Bergdahl was eventually found guilty, reduced in rank to private, dishonorably discharged and fined $10,000, but was spared any additional prison time.

Milley, 60, is a graduate of Princeton University. He helped the service form its first new major command in some four decades - the four-star Army Futures Command stood up in Austin, Texas in the summer to focus on modernizing the service's warfighting equipment. After the deadly white nationalist protest in Charlottesville in August 2017, Mr. Trump incited criticism by saying there were "good people on both sides" of the protest.

Dunford was nominated to the post in 2015 by former US President Barack Obama.

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