WASHINGTON — President Obama on Monday nominated Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the Army chief, to help steer the American armed forces through the three present conflicts in Muslim countries, as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In a brief Rose Garden announcement in the midst of Memorial Day observances, Mr. Obama highlighted the dual roles that General Dempsey, who, as chairman, will be the country’s highest-ranking military officer, must fill as the United States brings its troops home from Iraq, begins withdrawing from Afghanistan and takes part in the NATO operation in Libya. General Dempsey, the president said, understands that “military gains and political progress must go hand in hand.”
Mr. Obama noted that General Dempsey only recently assumed his job as the Army chief, a tenure, the president said, that “may go down as one of the shortest in history.” Mr. Obama had initially favored General James E. Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, before questions of personnel management and command style pushed him out of the running.
General Dempsey will replace Adm. Mike Mullen, whose term ends on Sept. 30. Mr. Obama also announced that he was appointing Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing General Cartwright.
Admiral Winnefeld currently serves as top officer of the Northern Command, based in Colorado Springs, a headquarters created after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and given responsibilities for defense of the American homeland.
The president appointed the Iraq war veteran, Gen. Ray Odierno, to replace General Dempsey as the Army chief.
If confirmed by the Senate — as is expected — General Dempsey will become the president’s senior military adviser, working alongside Leon E. Panetta, the Central Intelligence Agency director, who is in line to become defense secretary when Robert M. Gates retires in late June, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, who will take over from Mr. Panetta at the C.I.A. Officials said the high opinion Mr. Gates has of General Dempsey — one shared by Admiral Mullen — was a significant factor in shaping Mr. Obama’s decision.
General Dempsey carries no visible political baggage and has no vocal critics across the armed forces. The only sour notes sounded at word of his nomination came from those who regretted his departure from the post of Army chief. The exhausted ground forces, they said, need someone like General Dempsey who not only can employ the Army in combat, but also knows how to rebuild it. General Odierno, who will replace General Dempsey as Army chief, had three combat command tours in Iraq before being named top officer of the military’s Joint Forces Command.
Although General Petraeus is credited with turning around a failing mission in Iraq, it was General Odierno — then serving as the No. 2 commander — who was in charge of the day-to-day fight during the so-called surge and was seen across the military as essential to the progress.
He then succeeded General Petraeus as the top commander in Iraq. A high point of General Odierno’s first tour in Iraq, as commander of the Fourth Infantry Division, based in Tikrit, was the capture of Saddam Hussein.
Admiral Winnefeld commanded at sea for combat operations over Afghanistan and Iraq, and also led the Navy’s Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea.