Senate confirms Milley as Joint Chiefs chairman

Senate confirms Milley as Joint Chiefs chairman
© Aaron Schwartz

The Senate easily confirmed Gen. Mark Milley on Thursday to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, filling a key role at a time of global turmoil.

The Senate voted 89-1 to confirm Milley as the top general in the country. Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems to Pompeo: Comments about NPR reporter 'insulting and contemptuous' Environmentalists, Oregon senators oppose DOT increasing transport of natural gas by rail Senate Democrat says he is concerned intelligence community is 'bending' Soleimani presentations MORE (D-Ore.) was the lone "no" vote.

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Milley will succeed Gen. Joseph Dunford, whose term as chairman wraps at the end of September.

"I am humbled and honored to be confirmed as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Milley said in a statement Thursday. "Thank you to the president and the Senate for their confidence. I have been privileged to serve as chief of staff of the Army these last four years and look forward to the opportunity to continue working alongside the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Dept. of Defense civilians and families serving our nation's military."

Milley has served as chief of staff of the Army since 2015 and will step into the new role as President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE's top military adviser at a time when U.S.-Iran tensions threaten to boil over into military conflict.

He also represents a steady hand as the Pentagon faces a high number of vacancies.

Milley's confirmation comes days after Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: US military jet crashes in Afghanistan | Rocket attack hits US embassy in Baghdad | Bolton bombshell rocks impeachment trial Overnight Defense: Veterans group seeks Trump apology for comments on brain injuries | Pentagon says dozens of troops suffered traumatic injuries after attack | Trump unveils Space Force logo Commerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  MORE was confirmed and sworn in, helping end a leadership vacuum at the Pentagon after an unprecedented period of more than six months without a Senate-confirmed Defense secretary.

Several other top civilian posts remain unfilled, including deputy Defense secretary, Army secretary and Air Force secretary.

The deputy position is close to being filled, after the Senate Armed Services Committee advanced David Norquist's nomination on Thursday. Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap Overnight Health Care — Presented by Philip Morris International — CDC, State Department warn against travel to China | Biden says Trump left US unprepared for epidemic | Justices allow Trump 'public charge' rule to move forward Progressive group targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment witnesses MORE (R-Ky.) listed Norquist's nomination as one of the Senate's to-do items before leaving for the August recess next week.

But the fate of Milley's potential vice chairman remains unsettled, even as vice chairman Gen. Paul Selva is set to retire at the end of July.

Gen. John Hyten, the nominee to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been accused of sexual assault by a female officer.

An Air Force investigation cleared Hyten of the allegations, but the issue stalled his nomination.

The Senate Armed Services Committee interviewed Hyten behind closed doors Thursday, after doing the same with Hyten's accuser earlier this week. Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeBroad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa Lawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown Senators take oath for impeachment trial MORE (R-Okla.) said after the meeting Thursday the panel will proceed with having an open confirmation hearing for Hyten.

Updated at 3:14 p.m.