President Obama urged the Senate Tuesday to quickly confirm his picks for the two highest-ranking positions in the U.S. military, formally nominating Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva as vice chairman.
In a Rose Garden address, the president described Dunford "one of the most admired officers in our military" and "the very definition of Boston strong," talking about his upbringing and career path through the military. He said in particular he has been "extraordinarily impressed" by Dunford when the general was in the Situation Room helping to plot Afghan strategy as the commander of American coalition forces in Afghanistan. He called him one of the military's "most highly regarded strategic thinkers."
The only downside, Mr. Obama joked, is that he is a Red Sox fan, unlike the president, who favors the White Sox.
The president praised Selva, the new nominee for vice chairman, as a man who understands the best way to use the powerful U.S. military in an effective manner.
The president also thanked "Marty and Sandy" -- Gen. Martin Dempsey and Adm. James Winnefeld - for their service as the outgoing chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"I've relied on you both, your advice, your counsel, your judgment, as we've navigated the urgent challenges of recent years," Mr. Obama said. "At every step you have been critical to our processes and I have valued not only your counsel but your friendships."
He paid particular attention to their work guiding the military through budget cuts and tackling sexual assault.
Mr. Obama also joked that he would miss Dempsey's "incomparable singing voice" and requested a final number at his farewell.
Dunford, if confirmed, would succeed Dempsey, whose term as chairman expires in September after roughly four years. Selva, currently the head of U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, would replace Winnefeld, who's also held his post for four years.
The selection of Dunford, 59, marks the culmination of a rapid rise - the general has been promoted from one star to four stars in about three years.
Born in Boston, Dunford began his military career as an infantry officer. He served for two years in Iraq, earning the nickname "Fighting Joe" as head of the Marines' 5th Regimental Combat Team during the 2003 invasion. In 2013, he was named the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, where he oversaw the U.S. withdrawal and guided the military through a difficult Afghan election that cast a pall of uncertainty over the continued U.S. troop presence in that country.
He was named Marine commandant last August, and he'll have to leave that post ahead of schedule to chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff.