President Barack Obama moved Monday to complete an overhaul of the national security apparatus, selecting Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as his new Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman amid a winding down of the war in Iraq, protracted battle in Afghanistan and American assistance to the NATO-led effort against Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.
Obama announced a new lineup of his top military leadership group in the Rose Garden of the White House just before venturing across the Potomac to pay tribute to the nation's war dead at Arlington National Cemetery. The Memorial Day announcements had been expected, although there was no immediate indication what the military leadership moves might imply for possible changes in military policy.
Already, the president had turned earlier this month to CIA Director Leon Panetta to succeed Robert Gates and secretary of defense and chose to move Army Gen. David Petraeus from his command of the Afghanistan war effort to the United States to replace Panetta at the CIA.
Marine Gen. James Cartwright had long been rumored to be Obama's favorite, and the president singled him out for praise at the announcement. But he turned instead to Dempsey, an accomplished veteran of the Iraq war, to succeed Adm. Mike Mullen as his top military adviser, calling the Army officer "one of our nation's most respected and combat-tested generals."
The president also announced he has chosen Navy Adm. James Winnefeld to succeed Cartwright as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Army Gen. Ray Odierno as his candidate to replace Dempsey as Army chief of staff.
The nominees have to be approved by the Senate, and Obama voiced hope that could happen in a timely fashion.
Obama called America's servicemen and women "the best our nation has to offer, and they deserve nothing but the best in return, and that includes leaders." The president then traveled to Arlington and placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Dempsey, who began a four-year term as Army chief of staff on April 11, will have to be confirmed by the Senate, as will Winnefeld and Odierno.
Appearing in a nationally broadcast interview Monday morning, Mullen said he's encouraged about reports the Pakistani government is launching a major offensive against militants in the North Waziristan area near the border with Pakistan. "It's a very important fight and a very important operation," he said.
Mullen also said he has perceived strong support among the American people for American servicemen and women and said he's grateful for that. He said he doesn't want to see a "disconnect" between the uniformed men and women and the population at large.
Asked if a change of guard at the Joint Chiefs means a change of strategy in Afghanistan, he replied, "We obviously have added these forces ... and we've really seen progress on the security side. ... We will sustain losses as we have in the last few days. ... That said, I am confident that by the end of the year, we'll be in a much, much better position."
He said he hopes the public understands "the depth of sacrifice" made by servicemen and women.
Mullen appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America," CBS's "The Early Show" and NBC's "Today" show.
This program aired on May 30, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.