Trump chooses new Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, against Mattis wishes

Gen. Mark Milley 60 has served as the U.S. Army chief of staff since 2015

Gen. Mark Milley 60 has served as the U.S. Army chief of staff since 2015

He was the head of the US Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and was assigned to review the investigation of former Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years after leaving his post in Afghanistan in 2009.

"He's a battle-tested commander and Pentagon reformer who will be a worthy successor to General Dunford", said Graham, who sits on the Armed Services Committee.

It is unusual to make the announcement of the Defense Department's next top officer at a sporting event - even one as revered in military circles as the 128-year-old game between the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy - and reveal the decision some 10 months before the transition is scheduled to take place. There has not been an Air Force officer in the chairman's post since 2005.

US President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn after returning to the White House in Washington, US, December 7, 2018.

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But he opted to announce the news on Twitter before heading to the game.

The chairman is the highest-ranking officer in the USA military and is the top military adviser to the president. Milley made the decision to charge Bergdahl in 2015 with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, for which Bergdahl ultimately received a dishonorable discharge but avoided prison time. Dunford would normally remain as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until a scheduled October 1, 2019, handover.

Milley, 60, is a graduate of Princeton University.

"At the end of the day, in the dark of the night, when no one is around you and things aren't going well, it is your character that holds you together", Milley said, according to the school's website.

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Dunford originally was nominated for the Joint Chiefs position by former President Barack Obama, serving an initial two-year term.

Trump teased his forthcoming decision to reporters as he left the White House en route to Kansas City on Friday morning just after announcing several other high-profile nominations for his administration.

He says: "I can give you a little hint: It will have to do with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and succession".

Goldfein began his term as Air Force chief of staff in 2016, so wouldn't be expected to step down until the summer of 2020.

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