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Background in Asia, Aerospace Played Role in Myers' Selection - 2001-08-24

President Bush has nominated General Richard Myers to lead U.S. military forces. He could become the first person from the Air Force to serve as the nation's top military officer in nearly two decades.

If confirmed by the Senate, he would take over from the Army's Henry Shelton as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October. The four star general's background in Asia and aerospace defense played a key role in Mr. Bush's selection.

The chairman of the joint chiefs serves as the top military advisor to the President and Secretary of Defense by bringing together the commanders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. General Myers would become the senior ranking member of the armed forces at a time when the U.S. military is going through tremendous change intended to counter threats from terrorism to missile proliferation to computer warfare.

Former Pentagon Asia specialist Derek Mitchell sees the former combat pilot's nomination as further indication of this shift in defense strategy. "The fact that he was head of the Pacific Command Air Forces Division clearly gives him an understanding of the dynamics in Asia," he said, "and given the clear conception in this administration of moving their strategic focus from Europe to Asia, he clearly fit a mold."

As former head of the Air Force Space Command, General Myers brings to the job experience with the kind of technology the Bush administration will need to move away from a military long rooted in heavy infantry and ground forces to one increasingly reliant on the swiftness of air power, computers and other new technologies.

President Bush told reporters these skills put General Myers at the top of his list to be the new joint chiefs chairman. "One of the reasons Dick Myers is the chairman of the joint chiefs nominee is because he's had a lot of experience in space, for example, an area we need to explore and know more about," he said. "He's had a lot of experience when it comes to the leading edge of technology that is becoming more and more prevalent in our military."

For the past year, General Myers has served as deputy to the retiring Joint Chiefs Chairman General Henry Shelton. He's also been a key advisor to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the transformation of the military, making no secret of his strong support for space-based defenses. He is now set to move into a position that in Washington often means blending a military background with the skills of a diplomat at a time when many of America's allies are wary of U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense.