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Trump announces Gen. Mark Milley as pick for next Joint Chiefs chairman

President Trump has chosen Army Gen. Mark Milley to succeed Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. as the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

President Trump announced Saturday that he would nominate Army Gen. Mark Milley as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, giving the president a critical opportunity to leave his imprint on the U.S. military by choosing its top officer. 

In a pair of morning tweets, Trump said the transition date was to be determined. Milley is a four-star general who serves as Army chief of staff. Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. is scheduled to retire next fall. 

“I am thankful to both of these incredible men for their service to our Country!” Trump tweeted. 

Milley’s nomination will need to be confirmed by the Senate, which is unlikely to hold hearings for him or other just-announced presidential nominees before the new Senate convenes on Jan. 3. 

“We are aware of the president's nomination and share his confidence for Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the United States Army, to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman, said Saturday. “The Department of Defense remains fully focused on defending our nation.”

The Joint Chiefs chairman oversees global military operations and is the president’s main adviser on military matters.

A veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Milley as Army chief championed a plan to create specialized units to train local forces in Afghanistan. He also worked to improve the Army’s readiness. 

Congressional Republicans on Saturday applauded Trump’s decision to tap Milley. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) praised the nominee’s “direct, insightful military assessments based upon his intellect and years of experience.”

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called Milley a battle-tested commander and Pentagon reformer “who will be a worthy successor to Gen. Dunford.”

Some Pentagon officials expected the Joint Chiefs chairman to be selected from the Air Force, considering the informal rotation among the services. Dunford, a former Marine Corps commandant, succeeded Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as chairman in 2015.

Trump is scheduled to make an appearance Saturday at the annual Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.