US Army Gen. Martin Dempsey is expected to be confirmed for a second term as chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff. (Benjamin Myers/US Army)
WASHINGTON — Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin announced Thursday he expects the panel to vote on the nomination of Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey for a second term next week.
In a statement, the Michigan Democrat revealed that Dempsey had met the committee’s requirements for additional information about his views on a possible US military mission in Syria and the future of America’s involvement in Afghanistan.
“Last week, I wrote a letter with Sen. John McCain to Gen. Martin Dempsey with a series of questions about US policy with regard to Syria and Afghanistan, and we asked for his prompt response so that the committee could move forward to consider his nomination,” Levin said. “[Wednesday], Gen. Dempsey replied to our questions with classified assessments.
“I will ask the committee early next week to act on his nomination,” Levin said.
Submission of the classified document follows Dempsey’s unclassified answers to questions posed by Levin and the Arizona Republican, which hit Capitol Hill on Monday.
The information requests came after McCain harshly criticized Dempsey’s military judgment and expressed outrage that the chairman declined to give his personal opinions about Syria to the panel.
Following last Thursday’s confirmation hearing, McCain signaled his intention to place a procedural hold on the nomination, which any senator can do under Senate rules for any reason to freeze any Cabinet or lower-level executive nomination.
McCain had altered course by Tuesday, however, after Dempsey submitted his unclassified views on Syria.
“I’m not holding his nomination,” McCain told a group of reporters on Capitol Hill, four days after he and Dempsey clashed during the Thursday confirmation hearing. “It’s going through the committee; there’s no hold.”
The former GOP presidential nominee said he will let the nomination move forward, in part, because “the president, I think, has the right to choose his team around him — particularly as far as military advisers are concerned.”
McCain did, however, signal his frosty and testy relationship with Dempsey likely will continue if the general is confirmed by the committee and the full chamber for a second term, which is expected.
McCain sharply panned the general’s gloomy description of the likely composition and cost of a US military operation to end Syria’s bloody civil war, which Dempsey wrote in a letter Monday.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” McCain said, taking a swipe at Dempsey’s military expertise.
“This assessment that Gen. Dempsey gave is beyond anything that any rational military thinker that I know would contemplate,” the senator said, because “the dimensions of the challenge are far different than what Gen. Dempsey describes.”