Defense Secretary Robert Gates just announced that he will replace Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace rather than allow him to be nominated for a second term. The reason? Gates said he believed that reconfirmation hearings for Pace would devolve into a "divisive ordeal" focused on the conduct of the Iraq war.
Although Pace has been described by Time as "a prime example of a 'Rumsfeld man,'" Gates did not move to oust him upon becoming defense secretary earlier this year. And at a press conference this afternoon, he said that he had intended to nominate Pace for a second term when his first term expires this year.
"However," he said, "after consultations over the course of several weeks with both Republican and Democratic senators, I concluded that because Gen. Pace has served as chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the last six years, the focus of his confirmation process would have been on the past rather than the future, and further that there was the very real prospect the process would be quite contentious."
While Gates said that he's "no stranger to contentious confirmations" and does not "shrink from them," he said that he decided that, "at this moment in our history, the nation, our men and women in uniform and Gen. Pace himself would not be well served by a divisive ordeal in selecting the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
Asked whether his decision was a concession that the White House has lost Republican senators on Iraq, Gates said no.
Gates said he intends to replace Pace with Adm. Mike Mullen, who currently serves as chief of naval operations.