Union Tribune

September 28, 2002

Top Marine generals' nominations approved


WASHINGTON The nominations of Marine Gen. James L. Jones to be NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe and of Lt. Gen. Michael W. Hagee to replace him as Marine Corps commandant were endorsed yesterday by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The committee leaders suggested votes by the full Senate could come as early as Monday, an indication of the lack of controversy over the nominations.

The committee also backed the nomination of Navy Adm. James O. Ellis to remain as head of the reorganized U.S. Strategic Command, which will absorb the functions of the Space Command.

Hagee, now commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, was asked few questions during the hearing. But in his responses to the committee's written questions, he repeatedly voiced concern about the impact on training from "encroachment," which includes environmental restrictions that critics say are particularly severe at Camp Pendleton.

"We are finding that the training and mission effectiveness of our Marines is being degraded by the many forms of encroachment on our bases and station," Hagee said in a written response.

A conference committee is negotiating over competing proposals to give the military some relief from environmental laws.

Jones would be the first Marine to hold the top NATO military command, and he was questioned about the challenges facing NATO as it tries to find new roles after the Cold War and to absorb new member nations.

But Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John Warner, R-Va., the chairman and ranking minority member, also were intrigued by Jones' unusual step of criticizing a congressionally mandated defense reform that has been considered sacrosanct.

In his written responses, Jones said the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols defense reorganization act has undermined the service leaders' ability to give the national leadership their military advice as part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It also has cut the chiefs' role in procuring the weapons they need, he said.