WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama plans to tap Special Operations Command (SOCOM) head Army Gen. Joseph Votel as the next leader for US Central Command (CENTCOM), according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Votel would replace Gen. Lloyd Austin, who has led CENTCOM since March 2013. The move represents an early rotation for Votel, who only arrived at SOCOM in mid-2014.
As the head of SOCOM, Votel has led the proverbial pointy end of the stick in the fight against the Islamic State group. Special operators are the only known US forces on the ground in Syria and Iraq, and are expected to see an expanded presence over the next year.
Special operations have sometimes been seen as off in their own world, but in public statements Votel has called for greater coordination between special and conventional military forces.
Once nominated, Votel would have to be confirmed by the Senate. While the confirmation of some top Pentagon officials has been slow on the Hill, the importance of CENTCOM in the fight against the Islamic State group will likely result in a vote being called relatively quickly.
Austin's tenure at CENTCOM will likely be defined by the situation in Syria and Iraq. He has taken fire from members of Congress upset with the Obama administration's strategy in the fight against the Islamic State group. In particular, Austin was blasted after a Sept. 16 appearance in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee when he admitted the multimillion-dollar Syrian train and equip program had led to only "four or five" trainees.