Ash Carter announces nominees for new army, navy chiefs

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter (C) greets Army General Mark Milley at the Pentagon Briefing Room in Washington May 13, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced two new nominees for the military's joint chiefs of staff on Wednesday, saying General Mark Milley was President Barack Obama's choice to lead the Army and Admiral John Richardson was his pick for Navy chief.

The announcement came just a week after Obama nominated Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, the Marine commandant, to be the new chairman of the joint chiefs, and Air Force General Paul Selva to be the vice chairman.

The nominations are part of the regular makeover of the joint chiefs, whose members serve four-year terms, most of which are winding up this autumn. The president has yet to nominate a chief to replace Air Force General Mark Welsh or Dunford as Marine commandant.

The selections are not final until they have been confirmed by the Senate. The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings on the nominees during the summer.

Republican Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate panel, said he did not foresee any problems with Milley and Richardson.

"I don't know them real well, but both have good reputations," McCain told reporters at the U.S. Capitol. "On these kinds of things, you really lean toward the president because of his role as commander-in-chief."

Milley, who heads the U.S. Army Forces Command, would replace the outgoing Army chief, General Ray Odierno, and Richardson would succeed Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations.

Carter described Milley, a former top U.S. general in Afghanistan, as a "warrior and a statesman." He said Richardson, the current head of the Navy's nuclear propulsion program, was the "clear choice" to take over as chief of naval operations.

Milley "not only has plenty of operational and joint experience in Afghanistan and Iraq and on the joint staff, but he also has the intellect and vision to lead change throughout the Army," Carter told reporters at the Pentagon.

He said Richardson "is a bold thinker, a tremendous leader and the go-to officer for many of the Navy's tough issues in recent years."

Odierno and Greenert took up their four-year terms as chiefs of their respective services in September 2011. They have led the Army and Navy during a period marked by continuing turmoil in the Middle East, the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan and huge cuts in defense spending.

(Reporting by David Alexander and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Richard Chang)