Obama moves to fill some key military commands

President Obama has nominated senior officers to some of the military’s most powerful posts, including leadership of U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.

Army Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Votel has been nominated for promotion to four-star general and to take over SOCOM, the secretive organization that oversees special operations worldwide from its headquarters in Tampa. He would replace Adm. William H. McRaven, who has held the position since August 2011.

Votel is the commander of Joint Special Operations Command, a SOCOM component at Fort Bragg, N.C., that controls some of the military’s most elite units, including the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 and the Army’s Delta Force.

Army Gen. John F. Campbell has been tapped to lead the final stages of the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan. Campbell, the Army’s vice chief of staff, would replace Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who has been nominated to become the next commandant of the Marine Corps.

Obama nominated Adm. William E. Gortney to become the next commander of U.S. Northern Command, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday. Gortney has served as the chief of the Navy’s U.S. Fleet Forces Command since September 2012. NORTHCOM oversees U.S. military operations in North America; Fleet Forces Command oversees the organization, training and equipping of naval forces around the world.

Gortney would replace Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. as the head of NORTHCOM. Jacoby has held the position since August 2011.

All three moves must be confirmed by the Senate.

The announcements raise questions about what McRaven and Jacoby will do. McRaven, one of the nation’s best known and most powerful officers, is credited with organizing Operation Neptune Spear, the Navy SEAL raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011. Both senior officers could retire.

If Campbell is confirmed, the Army will have to find an officer to replace him as the service’s second in command. He has served as vice chief of staff for the Army since March 2013.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.
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