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Biden’s pick for Joint Chiefs faces Senate confirmation test

Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown, President Biden’s choice to lead the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will testify Tuesday morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee, where lawmakers are likely to press him on the administration’s support for Ukraine, challenges posed by Russia and China, and Pentagon social policies that have rankled Republicans and led to an unprecedented hold on military promotions.

If his nomination advances and he is confirmed by the full Senate, Brown would become the second African American to the hold the Pentagon’s top uniformed assignment. As part of a leadership team with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Brown’s promotion would mark the first time that both jobs are held by Black men.

Brown, who has led the Air Force since 2020, would replace Gen. Mark A. Milley, a pugnacious and at times polarizing Army officer who frequently clashed his Biden’s predecessor as commander in chief, Donald Trump. By law, Milley must vacate the chairman’s post by the end of September.

Biden considers Brown a seasoned tactician who understands the strategic challenges facing the United States, administration officials have said. The president has praised him publicly as “a warrior” who knows “what it means to be in the thick of battle” and keep his cool.

Brown helped engineer and direct the air campaign credited with dislodging the Islamic State group from its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Through assignments in the Pacific, administration officials said, he has developed a nuanced insight on China. And as a member of the Joint Staff, Brown has been involved in the expansive effort to arm, train and advise the Ukrainian military since Russia’s invasion last year.

As the Air Force’s top officer, Brown has advocated for modernizing the service’s fleet. He has also sought to improve working conditions for Air Force personnel, placing an emphasis on racial justice.

If confirmed as chairman, Brown’s greatest test may be in how he navigates America’s toxic political landscape. American confidence in the military has plummeted in the recent years, according to several surveys, prompting concern that an organization that once enjoyed major support among the U.S. populace has entered a troubled new era.

It is unclear how quickly Brown’s nomination process can move, however. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), a member of the armed services committee, has placed a hold on hundreds of military promotions over his objection to a policy allowing personnel to recoup travel expenses incurred while seeking an abortion if they are stationed in states that ban or restrict the procedure.

On Monday, the impasse reached a new level, with Gen. David Berger stepping down as commandant of the Marine Corps without a Senate-confirmed successor. Gen. Eric Smith, the Marines’ assistant commandant, has been nominated to replace him and will take the role on an acting basis, but he is expected to make few strategic decisions unless confirmed.

Soon, other service chiefs could join Smith in having to fill the jobs on an acting basis, too. Gen. Randy George faces a confirmation hearing Wednesday after being nominated to become the Army chief of staff. Brown will need a successor to lead the Air Force, and the Navy’s top officer, Adm. Michael Gilday, is expected to retire later this year.

Speaking Monday at a ceremony observing Berger’s departure, Austin alluded to the situation, saying it has been more than a century since the Marine Corps has not had a Senate-confirmed commandant. He did not, however, mention Tuberville by name.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who chairs the armed services committee, was less restrained, delivering lengthy remarks after the event singling out “the Senator from Alabama” and his supporters for “politicizing the military by the very nature of their actions.” It was, Reed said, “a sad demonstration.”

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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