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Gates Recommends Marine Corps General to Lead Central Command

Updated: 4:28 p.m.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Thursday that he is recommending Marine Gen. James Mattis as the new head of U.S. Central Command, a slot recently vacated by Gen. David Petraeus as he moved over to command U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

“Gen. Mattis has proven to be one of the military’s most innovative and iconoclastic thinkers. His insights into the nature of warfare in the 21st century have influenced my own views about how the armed forces must be shaped and postured for the future,” Gates said during a Pentagon news conference.

The reshuffling of leadership at the Pentagon comes on the heels of a blistering Rolling Stone magazine article in which Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his staff made damaging comments about President Barack Obama and his national security team. The story cost McChrystal his job as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and led Gates on Thursday to announce new rules requiring all military officials to clear media interviews with him.

“I have grown increasingly concerned that we have become too lax, disorganized and in some cases flat-out sloppy in the way we engage with the press,” Gates said. He pointed to instances in the past two years when he has had to reprimand military leaders over missteps with the media, and he said he has had “two very different presidents” express concerns to him “on several occasions” about senior Defense officials speaking out inappropriately on foreign policy issues.

“Effectively communicating what we do and how we do it remains a top priority for me. In fact, I consider it my duty,” he said. “I take it very seriously. And I expect everyone else in this department to do the same.”

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