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Obama to nominate Marines' leader as Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., head of Marine Corps, to be nominated as next chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who is commandant of the Marine Corps and has spent time as the top U.S. and NATO general in Afghanistan, will be nominated to serve as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a White House official said Monday.

If the Senate confirms his appointment, Dunford would become the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, overseeing all Pentagon and military operations, and would be the top military advisor to the president, secretary of Defense and National Security Council.

He would inherit a range of challenges, including the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, a resurgent Russia, and the ongoing battle against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Dunford would succeed Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, whose second two-year term as Joint Chiefs chairman is set to expire in the fall.

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Dunford, 59, graduated from St. Michael's College and was commissioned as a Marine officer in 1977. He later earned a master's degree in government from Georgetown University and a master's in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

During the assault to topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003, Dunford was the commander of the Camp Pendleton-based 5th Marine Regiment, earning the nickname "Fighting Joe." He served 22 months in Iraq, including as chief of staff and then assistant commander of the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Division.

In 2009, President Obama appointed him commander of the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. In 2012, he was named to lead U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Dunford became commandant of the Marine Corps last October.

A formal announcement of Dunford’s nomination to be Joint Chiefs chairman is expected Tuesday. The White House official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation, also said Gen. Paul J. Selva, the commander of U.S. Transportation Command, would be nominated to serve as Joint Chiefs vice chairman.

Times staff writers Christi Parsons and Tony Perry contributed to this report.

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