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USA Today
June 19, 2001
Pg. 4

Air Force General Top Pick For Joint Chiefs Chair

By Andrea Stone, USA Today

WASHINGTON ? The general in charge of the Pentagon's computer warfare operations is a leading candidate to succeed Gen. Henry Shelton as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff this fall. Air Force Gen. Ralph "Ed" Eberhart, 54, is on a short list of favorites to become the Pentagon's top military officer and principal uniformed adviser to the president on Sept. 30, when Shelton's second 2-year term expires.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who will recommend a candidate to President Bush in July, says his top priorities include developing computer warfare capabilities, a missile defense shield and protections for military satellites. All are the responsibility of the U.S. Space Command, which Eberhart runs. 

Military officials say the Vietnam combat pilot also benefits from a widely held Pentagon view that it's the Air Force's turn to take charge. The last airman to serve as chairman was Gen. David Jones in 1982.

The past three chairmen have been Army generals: Shelton, John Shalikashvili and Colin Powell. The Senate must confirm Bush's choice.

A law from 1986 limits the selection to the vice chairman of the joint chiefs, the four service chiefs and nine top-ranking commanders. The president can choose from beyond that group only if "necessary in the national interest."

Other top candidates:

*Navy Adm. Dennis Blair, 54, head of U.S. Pacific Command. His knowledge of Asia would help Rumsfeld fulfill his promise to place more emphasis on the Pacific.

Blair gets praise inside the Pentagon for his handling of the collision of a Navy surveillance plane with a Chinese fighter jet in April and the USS Greeneville submarine's fatal crash into a Japanese fishing trawler in February.

*Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Jones, 57, who would be the first Marine to serve as chairman. Jones was the front-runner until safety problems were discovered with the tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft sought by the Marines.

*Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, 59, the joint chiefs vice chairman, has a close working relationship with Rumsfeld, but he is nearing retirement and might be limited in how long he could serve. 

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