Statement by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen Regarding the Nomination of General Henry H. Shelton as the Next Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff July 17, 1997
Earlier this morning President Clinton saluted two of our nation's great military leaders. General John Shalikashvili, the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs, who has been a very wise counselor and true friend since I became Secretary of Defense earlier this year. Our relationship extends to the years I served in the Senate, and I have a great deal of admiration for his leadership and dedicated service. In September, General Shalikashvili is going to bring to a close a most distinguished career in the service of his nation.
Over the past several weeks, I have been involved in selecting the individual I would recommend to replace General Shalikashvili. So let me take just a moment to say a few words about Gen. Hugh Shelton, the superb leader who the President nominated to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Warfighting experience, diplomatic skill, global perspective and the human touch were important factors in my recommendation of General Shelton to the President.
General Shelton possesses all of these qualities. His warfighting experience is long and impressive. As a young officer he had two combat tours in Vietnam. He was a brigadier general and assistant commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Desert Storm.
General Shelton combines that warfighting record with diplomatic dexterity. The unique combination of combat experience and diplomatic skill was particularly evident in the role he played in restoring democracy to Haiti where he was the Joint Task Force Commander of a remarkable military success.
His experience in the Special Operations Command has given him unique credentials to serve as Chairman. The Chairman must have a global perspective, and so must the Commander-in-Chief of the Special Operations Command. Special operations individuals and units deploy all over the world. They are a key element in our ability to work smoothly with allies and coalition partners.
I have also found that General Shelton has the human touch that I believe is needed during a period when our military is very active and undergoing profound changes. He's sensitive to the needs of people in the military. He has led units at every level.
He understands how operational tempos affect service personnel and their families. The well being of men and women in uniform has been a prime concern for General Shelton for his entire career.
I'm confident that General Shelton's leadership, experience and skill will serve him well as he meets this new challenge. The President and I will rely on his wise counsel. After he is confirmed by the Senate, he will be an outstanding Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff.