The White House was expected to make an announcement soon on a successor to the retiring Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
For the second day in a row, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said that timing of the announcement was up to the White House and the Defense Department would have no comment on possible candidates for the position as the top military advisor to the President.
Several news outlets, including CNN and the Washington Post, have reported that the announcement could come this week, and that Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Marine Commandant and former top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, was a frontrunner.
Also considered to be on the short list were Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh; Adm. James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld, the current vice chairman of the JCS; and Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, head of the U.S. Pacific Command.
Locklear’s retirement from PaCom has been on hold while the Justice Department and then a Navy review board reviewed his possible involvement with Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) and its chief executive, Leonard Glenn Francis.
Three two-star admirals have been censured and a number of other officers and civilians have been convicted of criminal activity for corruption and bribery in connection with GDMA and Francis, known widely in the fleet as “Fat Leonard.”
A review board headed by Adm. John Richardson recently cleared Locklear of any wrongdoing involving GDMA. The clean slate from Richardson also cleared the way for Locklear to retire or possibly take over as JCS chairman when Dempsey puts in his papers later this year.
The hold on Locklear’s retirement had also put on hold the assumption of command of his successor. Adm. Harry Harris was confirmed by the Senate in December as Locklear’s replacement at PaCom.
The selection of Locklear -- considered a favorite of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter -- would send a strong signal of the White House’ commitment to the Pacific pivot, or the rebalance of forces to the Asia-Pacific region.
Both Winnefeld and Dunford were considered to be White House favorites. Dunford, who took command in Afghanistan in 2012, won praise from the Obama administration for overseeing the troop withdrawal while working towards a new Bilateral Security Agreement despite opposition from then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Dunford, 59, of Boston, was nicknamed “Fighting Joe” for leading Marine Regimental Combat Team-5 during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He has been Commandant since last October.
The nomination of Welsh as JCS Chairman could lead to stormy Senate confirmation hearings.
Welsh has clashed with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee over his strong support for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and his continued efforts to mothball the A-10 Thunderbolt ground attack aircraft.
Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@monster.com