By Jamie Klatell - 05/30/11 02:25 PM EDT
President Obama on Monday announced his choice of Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Adm. James Winnefeld as vice chairman.
Dempsey, the current Army chief of staff, will be replaced by Gen. Ray Odierno, Obama said from the White House Rose Garden.
"The men and women of our armed forces are the best our nation has to offer, and they deserve nothing but the absolute best in return, and that includes leaders who will guide them, and support their families, with wisdom and strength and compassion," the president said in his Memorial Day announcement.
"I found these qualities in the leaders who will complete our team at the Pentagon and whom I’m proud to announce today -- General Martin Dempsey as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral James Winnefeld as the Vice Chairman, and to succeed General Dempsey as Chief of Staff of the Army, General Ray Odierno."
White House officials have been studying a handful of top generals and admirals to replace Mullen, whose second and final term as the U.S. military’s top officer ends this fall.
Dempsey was deputy commander of U.S. Central Command from August 2007 to March 2008, and was Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq commander from August 2005 to August 2007. He became Army chief on April 11. But Dempsey is not a creature of Washington -- either at the White House or the Pentagon.
"I was proud to nominate Marty as Army Chief of Staff, and I realized he only assumed that position last month ... Marty, your tenure as Chief may go down as one of the shortest in Army history," Obama said. "But it’s your lifetime of accomplishment that brings us here today."
Dempsey worked closely in Iraq with Gen. David Petraeus, who has been tapped as the next Central Intelligence Agency director.
Winnefeld currently is the head of U.S. Northern Command.
"As Vice Chairman, Admiral Sandy Winnefeld will draw on more than 30 years of distinguished service," Obama said. "Having served as a NATO commander, Sandy is well known to our allies. Having served on the Joint Staff, he is known and trusted here at the White House."
Nominations for the president's new defense team, including Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense, need to be confirmed by the Senate.
"I urge our friends in the Senate to confirm these outstanding individuals as swiftly as possible," Obama said. "They’re innovative, flexible, focused on the future, and deeply devoted to our troops and their families."
The nominations announced by Obama received support from Gates, the outgoing Defense chief.
"General Dempsey, Admiral Winnefeld, and General Odierno have all excelled in key command and staff roles within their services and in the joint arena," Gates said in a statement released by the Pentagon. "They possess the right mix of intellectual heft, moral courage, and strategic vision required to provide sound and candid advice to the President and his national security team.
Both Obama and Gates praised the current leaders of the Joint Chiefs: the chairman, Adm. Mullen, and the vice chairman, Gen. Jim “Hoss” Cartwright.
"These two men have served our nation with distinction for decades, and I look forward to paying tribute to their lives of service in the months ahead," Obama said.
Gates said, "On a personal note, I have enjoyed working with Admiral Mullen and General Cartwright and benefited greatly from their wise counsel. All Americans owe these two fine officers and their families a debt of gratitude, and I look forward to paying fuller tribute to their accomplishments at the appropriate time."
John T. Bennett contributed to this post.
This post was updated at 11:30 a.m.