WASHINGTON — The US Senate, just before leaving for a month-long break, voted to give the nation’s top two military officers new two-year terms.
The upper chamber worked into Thursday evening, and before leaving for its August recess period, confirmed Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Vice Chairman Adm. Sandy Winnefeld for new terms.
A vote tally and party breakdown were unavailable because the confirmation was conducted via voice vote.
“Both of these proven leaders are tireless advocates for our men and women in uniform and innovative thinkers who are helping to shape the military of the future,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement released Thursday night. “I strongly value their counsel, as does President Obama. Their continued service and wise advice will be essential as we continue to draw down from the war in Afghanistan and confront other national security challenges.”
The duo received little pushback during their Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, during which Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., hammered Dempsey over his military judgment and the Obama administration’s Syria policy.
McCain and Dempsey differed on the amount of information a Joint Chiefs chairman is obligated to give Congress.
Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., played peacemaker, stepping in to guide Dempsey’s nomination to final approval. Levin and McCain requested information from Dempsey on his views about a Syria mission and about Afghanistan.
Dempsey quickly obliged, and McCain lifted his threat to hold up the duo’s nominations.
But McCain reiterated in a statement issued late Thursday evening after the voice vote that he remains irked by Dempsey’s answers.
“In my many years, I have seen a lot of military commanders overstate what is needed to conduct military action for one reason or another,” McCain said. “But, regarding Syria, rarely have I seen an effort as disingenuous and exaggerated as what General Dempsey has proposed.”