Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday he will recommend to President Bush that he nominate Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chief of naval operations, to replace Gen. Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when Pace's term ends in September.
As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for two years, and vice chairman for the previous four, Pace has been involved in all of the key decisions leading to the invasion of Iraq, and the planning for the post-Saddam Hussein era. But Gates clarified that the latest development had nothing to do with Pace's service or role in the Iraq war.
Answering questions from the press corps after his initial statement, it became clear that he had been advised by Congress that a re-nomination hearing for Pace would provide an opportunity for a sort of public trial of the conduct of the war. Gates said the recent discourse on Iraq had "created an environment" that made it obvious Pace's renomination would require "a confirmation process that would not be in the best interests of the country."
He said that after consulting with senators in both parties, he had concluded that "the focus of his confirmation process would have been on the past and not on the future."
"It would not have been in the best interests of the country," Gates repeated.Gen. James E. Cartwright, currently commander of US Strategic Command, to replace the current vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., who Gates said had indicated his intent to retire.
General Peter Pace served more than 40 years in the Marine Corps, and was the first U.S. Marine to serve as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Appointed by George W. Bush, Pace succeeded United States Air Force Gen. Richard Myers on September 30, 2005.
Pace made his last public appearance yesterday at the closing ceremonies of the "Faces of the Fallen" exhibit at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on a day that was, he announced, the 40th anniversary of his induction into the Marine Corps. The exhibit recognized more than 1,300 American military personnel who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Comments during Pace's speech don't sound like those of a man who knows the world will learn the next day that he'll be losing his appointment as chairman of the Joint Chiefs:
"It's...a day for those of us who have the privilege and pride of wearing the uniform of the Armed Forces of the Unites States--to renew our commitment, to take time and think about our oath, to re-dedicate ourselves to the service of this nation...the memory and the legacy that's been passed on to us by the individuals remembered in these portraits."
Gen. Peter Pace Speaking at the "Faces of the Fallen" Closing Ceremonies
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Press Conference, June 8, 2007