With nearly 150,000 U.S. Troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, President Obama moved to put the finishing touches on the overhaul to his national security team, announcing his pick for the new Joint Chief's of Staff: Forty-year Army veteran General Martin Dempsey, whom the president called "one of our nation's most respected and combat-tested generals."
General Dempsey who had only served one month as Army Chief of Staff, will replace the current Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, who retires this fall.
The announcement completes the President's new picks of top military advisors, which resembles what CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid calls "a game of musical chairs within his administration." CIA Director Leon Panetta replaces Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, and the current commander of the Afghanistan war effort, Gen. David Petreaus, will take over Panetta's post at the CIA.
Ret. General Wesley Clark said the president's picks signal continuity. "I think they indicate that President Obama is very comfortable with his national security team; he wants to keep them in play, he wants to take advantage of their skills," Gen. Clark said on CBS' "The Early Show."
"Gen. Dempsey is an outstanding officer," Clark said. "He's had a chance in his last, most recent assignment as the commander of U.S. Training and Doctrine Command, he's had a really good chance to look at the future of the Army. He's now the chief of staff, he's going to move into position and be able to help guide the armed forces through the transition as we come out of Afghanistan. I think he's an ideal pick."
If confirmed by the Senate, Gen. Dempsey will take over as Joint Chiefs head in the early stages of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan - slated to begin in July and be done by 2014 - and the final phases of Iraq war.
With the killing of Osama bin Laden last month, and the drawdown in troops on the battlefield, Gen. Dempsey will face different kinds of challenges then Mullen.
Earlier this month he testified about the role of the Army moving forward: "We recognize our responsibility to prevail in the wars we're fighting, prepare for the challenges of an uncertain future, and prevent and deter threats against the United States."
According to Clark, among the challenges Gen. Dempsey may face that Adm. Mullen did not during his tenure was a metamorphosed al Qaeda in the wake of the dearth of Osama bin Laden. "They're in other countries now - countries like Yemen are a principal danger," Clark said.
The general also said Dempsey will have to oversee the recovery of troops as they transition away from the battlefield. "There's going to be a lot more dealing with the Veterans Administration as we pass soldiers and Marines and sailors and airmen back from active forces: Medical records, working with people who have traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder," Clark told "Early Show" anchor Chris Wragge.
The President also named his picks to replace Dempsey and Petraeus ... again, both people the President is familiar with, said Reid. With so many of the promotions coming from within, it does not signal change in policy; these are people that the president trusts to implement his policies.