San Diego Union-Tribune

August 23, 2001


Air Force general likely top choice to head military


August 23, 2001 

WASHINGTON -- Air Force Gen. Richard Myers has emerged as
President Bush's leading bchoice to be the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff.

Myers, 58, currently the deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is to
accompany Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tomorrow to Crawford,
Texas, to discuss a sweeping military strategy and budget review with Bush.

However, the Navy's top officer, Adm. Vern Clark, was considered the
favorite a week ago and still might be in the running.

The man Bush picks to become his top military adviser and the nation's
highest ranking officer could determine how successful the president and
Rumsfeld will be in their efforts to transform America's armed forces for future challenges.

Bush's nominee, who must be confirmed by the Senate, will replace Army
Gen. Henry Shelton, who plans to retire Sept. 30 at the end of his four-year
tour as chairman and 38 years of military service.

The White House said tomorrow's meeting in Crawford was to brief Bush on
the Pentagon's intense review of defense strategy and forces. But Myers'
presence has fueled speculation that he is Bush's choice.

Myers has been deeply involved in contentious Pentagon deliberations over
the future strategy and funding of the military. The new strategy, which will
determine the size and shape of U.S. forces, must be submitted to Congress
by Sept. 30 as part of a Quadrennial Defense Review.

Because of his key role in these top-level discussions, Myers has forged a
close working relationship with Rumsfeld's top aide, Deputy Defense
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and is familiar with the administration's views on
transforming U.S. forces to meet the threats of the post-Cold War era.

Myers, who flew 600 hours of combat missions in F-4 Phantoms during the
Vietnam War, could be the last in a long run of Joint Chiefs of Staff chairmen
who saw combat in Vietnam.

Presidents can have different objectives in picking the chairman.

Former President Clinton was seen as picking men who would not be
independent voices and strong political in-fighters, like Gen. Colin Powell, his
first chairman.

But defense analysts say the new administration needs a strong leader who
will push the services to make major change in weapons programs and
tactics. Bush also would want someone who will support his push for national
missile defense, which would take money from other defense needs.

Myers, as a former commander of the U.S. Space Command, likely would
support Rumsfeld's push for a greater military use of space. He also has
commanded the Pacific Air Forces and U.S. forces in Japan, giving him
experience in Asia, which is expected to become the primary strategic focus
under the Rumsfeld reviews.

If selected as chairman, Myers would be the first vice chairman to move up
since the job was created in 1986.

Clark's qualifications include extensive service in the staff that serves the joint
chiefs. He was director of operations and ran the joint chiefs' planning during
the Persian Gulf War, and was then director of the joint staff.

A graduate of a small college affiliated with the Assemblies of God churches,
Clark is considered to be deeply religious, which could appeal to Bush.

Either choice would mean the end of 12 years of Army domination of the top
military job. The Navy has not held the chairmanship since 1989. The Air
Force has been shut out of the top job since 1982.

Knight-Ridder contributed to this story.