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Joint chiefs nominee wants to win 'hearts and minds'

Story Highlights

• Adm. Mike Mullen cited tsunami relief as excellent use of U.S. naval power
• Mullen picked as nominee to replace Gen. Peter Pace as Joint Chiefs chairman
• Defense secretary says Mullen understands strategic big picture
• Mullen reportedly said "the Army" was what most concerned him about the military
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Adm. Mike Mullen, President Bush's nominee to become the nation's top military officer, wants to see a U.S. military that can win over "hearts and minds" as well as battlefield confrontations.

Mullen was named Friday as the administration's choice to replace Marine Gen. Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I have become well-acquainted with Admiral Mullen over the past six months and believe he has the vision, strategic insight, experience and integrity to lead America's armed forces," U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in announcing the nomination. (Watch Gates explain the decision-making Video)

Gates had been expected to renominate Pace when his current two-year term ends in September, but Gates said Friday he would turn to Mullen because confirmation hearings for Pace would focus too much on his past six years on the Joint Chiefs, including the previous two as the chairman. The period covers difficult times for the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I have decided that at this moment in our history, the nation, our men and women in uniform and General Pace himself would not be well served by a divisive ordeal in selecting the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Gates said Friday.

Gates said he chose to nominate Mullen because he "is a very smart strategic thinker" who "has a view of the interests of the services as a whole."

In the interview process, Gates said, the Navy admiral said the thing he was most concerned about in the military was "the Army."

"In terms of where we need to be five years from now or 10 years from now, I think Admiral Mullen will bring a tremendous perspective," Gates said. (Watch what sank Pace's renomination Video)

As chief of naval operations, Mullen has focused on how to use naval power in the war on terror.

In an article published in January 2006 in the naval journal Proceedings, the admiral pointed to U.S. relief efforts after the Indonesian tsunami as a key way to defeat terrorism.

"Aside from the lives we ... helped save, we started changing hearts and minds," Mullen wrote. "We started showing them a side of American power that wasn't perceived as frightening, monolithic, or arrogant."

In the same article, he said the military, and the Navy in particular, "must develop a true understanding of the complex world in which they operate and the cultures with which they interact."

Mullen also talked about how the Navy must integrate its efforts with the Coast Guard to ensure homeland security needs are met.

Mullen is a 1968 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a native of Los Angeles, California.

In his Navy career, he has commanded three ships, including two guided missile destroyers and an aircraft carrier battle group.

He has been chief of naval operations since July 2005.


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