President Trump announced on Saturday, December 8, 2018 that General Mark Milley will be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Milley will replace General Joe Dunford at some point in the fall of 2019.
General Milley has been the Army chief of staff since August 2015. During his long career he has had deployments to many different regions of the world. This includes Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Columbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Panama, Egypt, and Haiti. He is extremely familiar with counterinsurgency operations but is also well-versed in how to conduct ‘the big fight’, having served in leadership positions in eight divisions.
One of his earliest assignments was in the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina when he served as a commander of a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (SFODA). He served on a Special Forces Combat Dive team. For some of that time he was the OIC of the Special Operations Training (SOT) Course at Mott Lake (FBNC).
Milley has deployed to Afghanistan three times. His most recent tour there was in the 2012 time frame. By all accounts he did a good job in overseeing the transition from partnering to security force assistance and helping the Afghan security forces to take the lead in combat operations. This was accomplished at the same time that he and his staff were closing down hundreds of U.S. bases and combat outposts, shipping whole units back to the states as part of the downsizing of U.S. forces, and retrograding tons and tons of vehicles, supplies, and equipment from Afghanistan.
He has pushed through a number of initiatives and projects while head of the Army. These include the establishment of the Security Force Assistance Brigades, adoption of a new combat fitness test, and the development of a more lethal combat force.
Milley took some heat over the SFAB decision. There are many high-ranking Army officers who discount the need for a professional and permanent advisory corps within the Army. However, Milley, when he was commander (as a LTG) of ISAF Joint Command (IJC) saw first hand the work of the SFABs and SFAATs that were formed ad hoc and put into the field as advisors to the Afghan security forces. He drew from this experience the need for a number of units that could deploy using personnel who were carefully selected and trained for the advisor mission.
In addition, the rollout of the 1st SFAB also put Milley on the hot seat with Special Forces community. The Army did a poor job of ‘prepping’ the battlefield for the introduction of the SFAB when it came to the Special Forces community. While the senior leadership of the Special Forces community saw the need for SFABs and welcomed the concept; the rank and file of SF saw it as a competing force that would steal the “foreign internal defense’ or FID mission from SF. In addition, there was the impression that the SFABs were going to appropriate the culture and identity of SF. A couple of months of damage control mitigated the initial public relations fiasco.
The chairman of the JCS oversees military operations around the world. He serves as the chief advisor on military matters to the president. Milley is going to be instrumental in the implementation of the latest change in the National Security Strategy that will shift the U.S. military from its fight against terrorist and insurgent groups to a possible future fight against ‘near peer’ competition (Russia, China, etc.).
Milley is thought to be a bit more outspoken than the current chairman – General Dunford. So it will be interesting to see just how long he can bite his tongue when it comes to dealing with a very problematic President. General Dunford and SECDEF Mattis have been very restrained and ‘diplomatic’ when it comes to Trump. Can Milley be as restrained?
General Milley’s early life was spent in Massachusetts where he attended prep school. His home town was Winchester, Ma. He attended Princeton, graduating in 1980. He would later receive a Master’s Degree from Columbia University (International Relations), a Master’s Degree for the U.S. Naval War College (National Security and Strategic Studies). In addition, he is a graduate of the MIT Seminar XXI National Security Studies Program.
If confirmed he would be the second “Bostonian” in a row as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – following the ardent Red Sox fan – General Joe Dunford. One unknown is which team he favors more – the Red Sox or the Patriots.
General Mark Milley, biography, Department of Defense.