The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved Lt. Gen. David Berger to serve as the Marine Corps' 38th commandant after one of its members delayed the confirmation for undisclosed reasons.
Berger, who currently serves as the head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, was approved by the committee Wednesday. The career infantry officer was expected to be cleared for the position last month when the committee OK'd several other key military leaders for new positions, but Sen. Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, delayed the vote.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Sullivan did not reveal what concerns he had, saying only that he had dropped his opposition to Berger and that the issue was between him and the general, according to Military Times. Members of Sullivan's staff and Marine officials declined to provide additional information.
Berger will be promoted to a fourth star and will replace current Commandant Gen. Robert Neller this summer. Neller, who has served as commandant since 2015, will retire after 44 years in the Marine Corps.
Berger, who has led Marines in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, will pick up a host of challenges as the Corps' next top officer. The service continues to struggle to bring down its sexual-assault numbers -- the worst across the military branches, and some are calling on the service to hone its role within the Defense Department after picking up a multitude of missions over the last two decades.
The Marine Corps must also figure out how to retain some of its most skilled personnel, including seasoned infantry leaders, pilots and cyber experts, amid an improving economy and threats from more capable adversaries. Decisions also remain about how best to stamp out sexism in the ranks, including whether men and women will train more closely together at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina.
Berger told senators during his April confirmation hearing that he's open to seeing more coed training companies during recruit training, like the one that graduated at Parris Island earlier this year.
Those who've served with Berger throughout his career have told Military.com that he's the right man to lead the Marine Corps. His time commanding I Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Forces Pacific will be vital as tensions with China grow, they say.
They also describe him as a straightforward leader who looks out for his Marines and their families.
"Dave is one of the best leaders I've ever met, in the military or corporate world," said Tim DeBoda, who served with Berger when the two were new lieutenants. "A role model -- that's what I remember. And just a hell of a nice guy."
-- Amy Bushatz contributed to this report.