National security adviser Gen. James Jones is stepping down, two senior administration officials said Friday, amid a series of key White House personnel changes as President Barack Obama approaches the midpoint of his term.
Obama will announce in a Rose Garden ceremony later Friday that Jones will be replaced by his top deputy, Tom Donilon. Jones' resignation will take effect in two weeks.
The move, though expected, is the latest high-profile departure among Obama's leadership team. Chief of staff Rahm Emanuel left just last week, and the president is expected to see more change at the top as Obama's tenure nears the two-year mark and the grinding pace of the White House takes a toll.
Jones, who retired from active duty in February 2007 after more than 40 years of uniformed service, had planned all along to leave the national security adviser's post within two years, said one official. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the president had not yet announced the decisions.
Donilon's promotion has a significant spillover effect on the rest of the White House. He had emerged as a top candidate to replace Emanuel as the permanent chief of staff. Now that job appears even more likely to go to Pete Rouse, the newly installed interim chief of staff and a longtime adviser to Obama.
Donilon has played a leading role in the policymaking process that tees up the national security decisions for the president. He has overseen the coordination among deputy chiefs from across the security apparatus and is known for bringing an understanding of domestic policy and politics to the job.
Meanwhile, Jones, who is 66, has largely kept a low public profile and is not known for keeping the intense schedule that Donilon has.
White House aides say Jones put his stamp on Obama's major foreign policy decisions over the last 20 months, including a larger troop presence in Afghanistan, a winding down of the war in Iraq and a retooled relationship with Russia.
Jones retained clout and contacts across the military after a career as a highly-decorated Marine. He retired as a four-star general, the highest grade currently in use. Jones' military career also gave him good access to foreign leaders, military chiefs and U.S. lawmakers.
His role was sometimes described in business terms, as the closer. In essence, others might do a lot of legwork to get something the United States wanted, but Jones could pick up a telephone, call the right person, and bring the deal home.
Jones served as the 32nd Marine Corps Commandant from July 1999 to January 2003. After leaving the post, he became the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and Commander of the United States European Command, holding the positions until December 2006. Besides his combat experience in Vietnam, Jones served tours of duty during Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq and Turkey as well as during operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia.
Administration officials said they expect him to go into a semi-retirement in which he will likely serve on boards and offer counsel to the White House.
Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Anne Gearan contributed to this story.