The general now heading army training is Defense Secretary Robert Gates' choice to be the next army chief of staff.

Gates told a Pentagon press conference Thursday that he had recommended Gen. Martin Dempsey for the job. If President Barack Obama accepts and nominates Dempsey, the general would have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Dempsey would replace Gen. George Casey, who leaves the army's top uniformed post in the spring.

Dempsey is now commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command and previously was acting commander of Central Command. He also led the multi-national training effort in Iraq and commanded the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad.

"General Casey is scheduled to finish his tour later this spring, and we obviously will have more to say at that point about his nearly four decades of dedicated service to the Army and to the country," Gates said in a brief announcement.