DUNFORD NEXT TO CHAIR JOINT CHIEFS?
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, commandant of the Marine Corps, has emerged as a leading candidate to replace Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to defense officials familiar with internal discussions of the matter.
Gen. Dempsey is slated to retire in September, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is said to be favoring Gen. Dunford, a recent commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan until he took over as commandant last summer.
Other candidates include the current vice chairman, Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr.; Adm. Samuel Locklear, Pacific Command commander; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh; and Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command.
Gen. Dunford’s views on sensitive political issues were outlined in written answers he supplied to the Senate Armed Services Committee last year. He stated that he supports the Obama administration’s controversial effort to place women into combat positions despite problems. More than two dozen female Marines so far all washed out of the Corps’ grueling officer training course.
On Afghanistan, Gen. Dunford wrote last July that he supports keeping troops in the country and gave conditional approval to President Obama’s plan to draw down forces through the end of 2016 — “with an understanding that we should continue to validate the assumptions and assess the conditions on the ground as the drawdown takes place.”
On the new policy of opening direct ground combat positions to women by January 2016 or asking for an exemption from doing so, Gen. Dunford stated that, as commandant, he would be “decisively engaged in the development of gender-free standards for all military occupations to ensure that we continue to field the most capable Marine Corps possible.”
The emergence of Gen. Dunford as a leading candidate for chairman has undermined a lobbying campaign for Adm. Locklear, the Pacific Command chief.
The admiral has been quietly seeking support for the nomination for the chairman’s job over the past several months. The Hawaii-based commander was said to have set up a team of advisers to help him with the behindthe-scenes process.
Mr. Carter recently met with Adm. Locklear on the way to Asia, and officials said the meeting included an evaluation of Adm. Locklear’s fitness for the chairman post.
The admiral has developed a reputation as among the Navy’s most politically correct admirals, voicing broad support for the Obama administration’s liberal agenda. In 2013 he told the Boston Globe that climate change and rising sea levels were the country’s most serious longterm security threats — not a nuclear missile-armed North Korea or an increasingly aggressive China.
The Pacific Command leader also has also been among the most accommodating toward China. He has taken positions that put him further to the left on the topic than Mr. Carter, a centrist Democrat.
One example came during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week, when Adm. Locklear strictly adhered to administration talking points that avoid mentioning Beijing’s threatening behavior. He then went much further, saying it was “imperative that we understand the rise of China and that we, to some degree, accommodate the rise of China to where we can attempt to shape the rise of China.”
The comments put him at odds with many U.S. allies in Asia, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who would like to see a stronger U.S. posture against Beijing’s military behavior and maritime encroachment.
Officials said Adm. Locklear’s most difficult hurdle to overcome was a possible taint as the result of an ongoing corruption probe that has ensnared at least eight Navy officers in criminal wrongdoing and implicated scores more.
In February, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus issued letters of censure to three admirals for their role in the bribery scandal involving a contractor of Pacific naval forces. The scandal involved kickbacks and improper gifts from the contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia, whose chief executive, Leonard Glenn Francis, has given the case its name — the “Fat Leonard” scandal.
Adm. Locklear was a commander of the U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet in San Diego at the time, but officials said