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Report: Air Force General May Be Next Head of Joint Chiefs

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein and U.S. Strategic Command's Air Force Gen. John Hyten. (U.S. Air Force Photos)
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein and U.S. Strategic Command's Air Force Gen. John Hyten. (U.S. Air Force Photos)

Two U.S. Air Force generals are being considered to become the military's next top general with the anticipated retirement of Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford next year, according to a new Wall Street Journal report.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein and U.S. Strategic Command's Air Force Gen. John Hyten are among those being considered by the White House to be next chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Journal reported Sunday.

Goldfein, Hyten and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley are also under consideration to become the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Journal said, citing U.S. officials. The position is currently held by Air Force Gen. Paul Selva.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment to Military.com about the reported moves on Monday. A Defense Department spokesman declined to confirm the moves, but noted that the military routinely makes senior command changes.

The reported proposal to elevate Hyten comes at a time when the Defense Department is focused heavily on expanding its space and nuclear enterprise. As the STRATCOM chief, Hyten has emphasized the need for nuclear modernization as well as the growing demand for bulked-up defenses in space as adversaries like Russia and China continue to exhibit hostile behavior in the domain.

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While Hyten in recent months has not publicly commented on President Donald Trump's proposed Space Force, the general has made clear that space is becoming a more contested arena.

"We have to treat space like a warfighting domain," Hyten recently told audiences at the 2018 Space & Missile Defense Symposium, reiterating previous comments he has made. "It's about speed, about dealing with the adversary," he said, as reported by Space News.

Goldfein has also made efforts to make his service more competitive and collaborative. As Air Force Chief of Staff, Goldfein has stressed the importance of partnerships with allies and joint services, as well as the imperative to develop a more streamlined approach to carry out the military's global operations.

For example, with the Air Force's 'Light Attack' experiment, Goldfein has said the importance of procuring new planes isn't solely about adding new aircraft, but also about developing ways to work with more coalition members to counter extremism in the Middle East.

"Is this a way to get more coalition partners into a network to counter violence?" he told Military.com in an interview last year. "[This] isn't an incentive for us not to lead," he said. "It's the incentive for us to grow ... to have more partners in this fight."

Trump is looking to nominate new leaders across various combatant commands as rotations for current leaders come to an end, Wall Street Journal reported.

Among the reported moves:

  • Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, Jr., director of the Joint Staff, to command U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East. McKenzie, who was often seen briefing alongside Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White, would replace Army Gen. Joseph Votel.
  • Army Lt. Gen. Richard Clarke to lead U.S. Special Operations Command. Clarke is currently the director for Strategic Plans and Policy on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. He would replace Army Gen. Tony Thomas in the job, which oversees all special operations in the U.S. Armed Forces. Thomas is anticipated to retire next year.
  • Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, current U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa commander, to become the commander of U.S. European Command and NATO supreme allied commander-Europe. Wolters would replace Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who has overseen the steady buildup of forces on the European continent following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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