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Air Force General Myers to Become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

First Air Force Officer to Hold Chair Since 1982

By Mike Allen
THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON -- George W. Bush plans to name Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, former head of the U.S. Space Command, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, administration officials said Wednesday.

Myers, a combat pilot in Vietnam who now is vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, will become the nation’s highest ranking military officer at a time when the Pentagon is in the midst of reassessing the size and mission of the post-Cold War armed services.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose intensive review of the military has drawn criticism from Congress and some top military leaders, will appear side-by-side at hearings with a general who shares his enthusiasm for an aggressive U.S. defense in space.

Myers, 59, was one of two finalists for the job, along with Adm. Vern Clark, the chief of naval operations. Rumsfeld and Myers are scheduled to fly to Bush’s Texas ranch on Friday for a briefing about the military review.

Administration officials said Bush could announce his nomination of Myers on Friday. The appointment requires Senate confirmation.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer described Myers as “one of the key people involved in the military transformation,” but said he would not speculate about who Bush had picked. “As soon as we have final word, we will advise the press corps when any type of presidential announcement will be,” Fleischer said at a briefing near Bush’s ranch Wednesday.

Former Pentagon officials said the selection of Myers can be expected to produce increased angst in the Army, which has been struggling for a role in the new administration. Bush and Rumsfeld have said they want to emphasize forces that are light and swift, and make more use of technology.

An Army general has been chairman of the Joint Chiefs since 1989, and eight of the 14 previous chairmen were from the Army. The last Air Force officer to become chairman was Gen. David Jones, who served from 1978 to 1982.

Myers is a former commander of U.S. Forces in Japan and Hawaii. Former Pentagon officials said the selection of an officer with experience in Asia is the latest indication that the administration regards China as the next great military threat.

Administration officials said that Bush puts a high premium on getting along with his top officials and said that his personal comfort with Myers may have been as much of a factor in the decision as the general’s space background.