President Biden called for a new era of innovation in the American military on Thursday as he formally unveiled his choice to steer the country’s armed forces into an uncertain future hunting down terrorists, managing the growing competition with China and countering Russian aggression in Europe.
Introducing Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. as his nominee for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. Biden praised him as a “proud, butt-kicking American airman” and “top-notch strategist.” But he said that one of the qualities that most appealed to him was the general’s vision and determination to continually think ahead, exemplified by the “accelerate change or lose” doctrine that he followed as Air Force chief of staff.
“When General Brown is chairman, I know I’ll be able to rely on his advice as a military strategist and as a leader of military innovation dedicated to keeping our armed forces the best in the world — and they’re the best in the history of the world, and that’s a fact,” Mr. Biden said, with General Brown at his side in the Rose Garden. “I’ll also able to rely on him as a thoughtful, deliberate leader who is unafraid to speak his mind, as someone who’ll deliver an honest message that needs to be heard and will always do the right thing when it’s hard.”
If confirmed by the Senate, General Brown would be only the second Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs and along with Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, the military for the first time would be led by Black men in both the top civilian and uniformed jobs. General Brown, who is known as CQ, drew attention when he taped a video after the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer three years ago in which he talked movingly about racism and his own experiences.
But his nomination comes at a time when some hard-right Republicans in the Senate have accused the military of being too “woke” and concerned about diversity, a topic that could come up during General Brown’s confirmation hearings. One Republican senator, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, has accused the military of doing too much to diversify, saying it has weakened the armed forces, and decried efforts to weed out “white extremists” from the ranks.
Mr. Biden, by contrast, praised General Brown for his video after the murder of Mr. Floyd. “It took real backbone and struck a chord not only with our military members but with Americans all across the country,” the president said. “CQ is a fearless leader and an unyielding patriot.”
General Brown is a fighter pilot with more than 3,000 ﬂying hours, including 130 combat hours. He once had to eject from a burning F-16 fighter jet over the Everglades in 1991, earning the call sign “Swamp Thing.” The son and grandson of combat veterans, he has held command positions over forces in Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific.
He would succeed Gen. Mark A. Milley, whose term ends in October and whose tenure was marked by tumultuous conflicts with Mr. Biden’s predecessor, Donald J. Trump, over the president’s efforts to politicize the armed forces, as well as by the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine under Mr. Biden.
The president made a point on Thursday of thanking General Milley, who was seated in the front row in the Rose Garden. “I trust you completely, completely,” the president said. He also thanked General Brown’s wife, Sharene, and their sons, Sean and Ross.
The country’s top military officials offered their support for General Brown’s nomination as well.
“He is an incredibly capable and professional officer and what he brings to the table — to any table — is that professionalism, that deep experience in warfighting,” Mr. Austin said in a briefing with reporters following a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. “And I have personal knowledge of that.”
General Milley said General Brown has “all the knowledge, skills and attributes” to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and also has “great chemistry” with both Mr. Biden and Mr. Austin. “CQ is absolutely superb and I am looking forward to a speedy confirmation,” said General Milley.
Peter Baker is the chief White House correspondent and has covered the last five presidents for The Times and The Washington Post. He is the author of seven books, most recently “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” with Susan Glasser. @peterbakernyt • Facebook
John Ismay is a Pentagon correspondent in the Washington bureau and a former Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer. @johnismay
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