Bush Considering Pace to Head Joint Chiefs of Staff

Marine Gen. Peter Pace (search), a Vietnam veteran whose military postings have ranged from the ceremonial halls of the White House to the violent streets of Somalia, is expected to be named chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (search), a senior official said Wednesday.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) has recommended Pace to President Bush, who is expected to announce his choice soon, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Pace, 59, who has served for nearly four years as the Joint Chiefs vice chairman, would be the first Ms from the president to the secretary of defense to commanders in the field.

It is widely expected that Bush will name Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani Jr. (search) to succeed Pace as vice chairman. Giambastiani, 56, was Rumsfeld's senior military assistant before being named commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command in 2002.

The Pace and Giambastiani moves are among many changes in the works at senior levels of the Pentagon. The Navy's top officer, Adm. Vern Clark (search), is retiring and the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. John Jumper (search), is due to depart this fall. The job of Air Force secretary is vacant, and Navy secretary Gordon England (search) has been nominated to replace Paul Wolfowitz (search) as deputy defense secretary. Rumsfeld's top policy aide, Douglas Feith (search), also is leaving.

If confirmed by the Senate, as expected, Pace would succeed Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers (search), 63, who is scheduled to retire late this summer after four years as chairman. Myers, who also was vice chairman for 19 months, was the first to rise from the No. 2 spot to the chairmanship.

By law, an officer cannot serve for more than a combined six years as chairman and vice chairman, but the president may extend that to eight years if he deems it to be in the national interest. The time limit does not apply in time of war. Pace will have served four years as vice chairman by the time Myers leaves in September.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in Teaneck, N.J., Pace graduated from the Naval Academy and earned a master's degree in business administration from George Washington University.

After basic training in 1968, he was sent to Vietnam as a rifle platoon leader. He later served in Korea, was a commander for two years during the Somalia intervention, and was head of the U.S. Southern Command (search).

He became vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs on Oct. 1, 2001, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Earlier in his career Pace's assignments included an unusual combination of staff and command jobs. After his return from Vietnam in 1969 he served as head infantry writer at the Marine Corps Institute (search) in Washington, D.C., then security detachment commander at the Camp David, Md., presidential retreat.

He also served as a presidential social aide at the White House and later was commanding officer of the Marine Corps recruiting station in Buffalo, N.Y. After he reached the rank of brigadier general in 1992 he became president of Marine Corps University. It was during that assignment that he was sent to Somalia as deputy commander of Marine forces. He reached four-star rank in 2000.