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Likely Divisive Hearing Cited in Decision on Joint Chiefs of Staff

21 June 2007

Defense chief says renomination of General Pace would have reopened old issues

Washington –Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he recommended against renewing the term of General Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the most senior military officer in the United States, because he wanted to prevent an antagonistic, Iraq-focused Senate hearing that might harm the nation.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters June 21, Gates said he made the decision with great reluctance, and Pace said he will continue serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs until midnight September 30.  Typically, a chairman serves a second term following a renomination hearing.

During a joint appearance with Gates, Pace said he fully understands the role of the U.S. Constitution that “calls for the president to propose and the Senate to dispose” and neither were “going to happen” in his case.

Pace’s comments came during his first news conference since the president announced June 8 that he was nominating Admiral Michael G. Mullin to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs.  Mullin is currently chief of U.S. naval operations.

Pace’s two-year term will expire September 30.  He previously served four years as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Gates said he intended to nominate Pace for a second two-year term and initiated consultations with Senate leaders from both the Republican and Democratic parties.  Senate leaders warned him, however, that because of Pace’s six-year service as part of the Joint Chiefs, a hearing to reconfirm him would result in intense public scrutiny of the entire decision making process associated with Iraq policy.

Opposition-party Democrats won control of Congress in November 2006 as a result of public concern over the U.S. military commitment in Iraq.

Declining to nominate Pace for a second term “was a recommendation to the president that I made with great regret, and that he accepted with reluctance,” Gates said.

However, Gates said, “based on consultations with both Democrats and Republicans, it seemed to me that a confirmation hearing was going to be focused on the past and essentially reopen all the issues of the past six years in a way that was not constructive for the country or for our men and women in uniform or, in my opinion, for General Pace.”

A transcript of the remarks by Gates and Pace is available on the Defense Department Web site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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