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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 MerkleyJeff MerkleyEx-Capitol Police chief did not get FBI report warning of violence on Jan. 6 Democrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line Democrats revive debate over calling impeachment witnesses 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 TrumpRomney: 'Pretty sure' Trump would win 2024 GOP nomination if he ran for president Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Trump says 'no doubt' Tiger Woods will be back after accident 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 EsperFemale generals' promotions held back over fears of Trump's response: report Overnight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command New Army hair and grooming standards allow for ponytails, buzz cuts and earrings 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 McConnellMcConnell backs Garland for attorney general Trump to attend private RNC donor retreat The Patriot Party already exists — it's the Democrats 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 InhofeThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - COVID-19 rescue bill a unity test for Dems Senate GOP ready to turn page on Trump Overnight Defense: Pentagon, Congress appoint panel members to rename Confederate bases | Military approves 20 more coronavirus vaccination teams 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.