Chairman ‘Respects, Honors’ Fallon's Retirement Decision
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 11, 2008 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he “respects and honors” the decision of a dear friend and mentor – Navy Adm. William Fallon – to retire as commander of U.S. Central Command effective March 31.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen speaks to the staff of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command during a visit to Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on March 10, 2008. It was Mullen's first visit to the commands since he was sworn in as chairman in October 2007. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class John Mason, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen spoke to reporters traveling with him from Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. Mullen was visiting U.S. Strategic Command when word of the retirement spread. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced during a Pentagon press conference today that he approved Fallon's letter of resignation and request for retirement “with reluctance and regret.”
He said no one should take Fallon’s retirement as a change in U.S. policy toward Iran. “In my view, this should not be seen as a sign – at all – towards any kind of conflict with Iran,” Mullen said.
Fallon is supportive of the policy “to engage Iran diplomatically and economically and not take the military option off the table,” the chairman said.
“I’m of the position that we need to engage Iran diplomatically, economically,” the chairman said. “My view of Iran hasn’t changed. I think they are a very negative, destabilizing impact in that region and in that regard Adm. Fallon and I are of the same view.
In a statement released by U.S. Central Command, Fallon said that “recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the President's policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time and hamper efforts in the CENTCOM region. And although I don't believe there have ever been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command area of responsibility, the simple perception that there is makes it difficult for me to effectively serve America's interests there.”
Mullen said Fallon – who is in Baghdad – made up his mind “based on his view commanding the most critical command we have fighting two wars. He really made his decision based on what he thought was best for the country, and I respect and honor that decision,” the chairman said.
Mullen called Fallon a great naval officer and a great leader.
“I’ve known him personally exceptionally well for the last 12 years,” the chairman said. “Adm. Fallon fought in Vietnam, commanded in Desert Storm and commanded both PACOM and CENTCOM in two wars. In my view he’s a true patriot, a great American, a great warrior and a great leader.”
Rrecommendations from U.S. commanders in Iraq, from Central Command and from the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the way ahead in Iraq are due to the president and Congress in April. Mullen said Fallon’s views on that process will be well-represented in the process.
Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey will serve as acting commander after Fallon’s retirement. He is currently the command’s deputy commander. Dempsey has been nominated for his fourth star and, if confirmed by the Senate, will take the job of commander of U.S. Army Europe.
The chairman said that Dempsey has been heavily involved in all aspects of U.S. Central Command and arrived at the post from a term commanding the Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq. “I am confident that in his position of acting commander that CENTCOM and the country will be very well served,” he said.
The chairman said losing a leader of Fallon’s vision, experience and commitment is a big loss. The CENTCOM job is a tough job and it is a critical time in the Middle East and Central Asia. He said Fallon surely took all that under consideration as he made his retirement decision.
“That’s why I’m so immediately inclined to support and respect what that decision was,” Mullen said. “Those of us who have commanded understand the burden of command, the importance of command and arriving at a decision like this, it’s a very personal decision, … and I believe it’s a very noble decision.
“He’s a dear friend, he’s a mentor of mine. It’s a hard decision for him and his family – they are very much on my mind.”