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Bush Takes a Friendly Flyer For Joint Chiefs Post

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Gen. Richard B. Myers

George W. Bush announced Friday his choice to succeed Gen. Hugh Shelton as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, a man with the perfect resume to be the third leg of the Bush-Rumsfeld Pentagon triangle: Currently vice chairman. Former head of the Air Force's space command. Former commander of the Pacific Air Forces. And no less importantly (especially in the personal-chemistry Bush Administration), the Kansas City native is by all accounts a pretty likable guy. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, who was also in Crawford with Bush and Rumsfeld for the announcement, will be the new vice chairman.

TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson gives us the skinny on the military's new top man in uniform.

TIME.com: Why Myers?

Mark Thompson: Heís got experience in the Pacific, heís got experience in space, heís got experience in Washington, so he hits those three key elements, all of which buttress what the Bush Administration is talking about doing with the military.

He also gets high marks from fellow officers for personality and straight-shootingness, which was a concern, frankly, with some of the other people whose names were mentioned.

Itís time for somebody outside the Army to get this post. The Army has had the last three chairmanships — I guess Gen. David Jones was the last Air Force guy to have it, and thatís been 20 years. You could make the argument that it was about time for the Air Force to get a shot at the top military job, and thatís whatís happened.

What does this mean for missile defense?

Although Myers is clearly a good fit in that regard, I donít think this is a lead pipe cinch for Star Wars. As a fellow who knows space very well, he also knows the limitations of it, and while being an advocate for it he may also be a realist for it. Which isnít something people who arenít very familiar with space tend to be; they tend to be rather pie-in-the-skyish. I donít think this guy has that kind of baggage, so that could be a good thing.

And military restructuring?

Heís plainly forward-looking, and more friendly to innovation, perhaps, than the average infantry man — although when you reach the four-star level in the military, the differences between people are pretty marginal.

But the mission of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is current and ongoing military operations. With something like restructuring, he can of course be influential — but the law doesnít give him that job.

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