July 30, 2015 / 12:44 AM / 5 years ago

Senate confirms Dunford as top U.S. military officer

Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford testifies during the Senate Armed Services committee nomination hearing to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 9, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed Marine General Joseph Dunford as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top officer in the U.S. military.

President Barack Obama had praised Dunford as a leader who helped shape the changing role of U.S. troops in Afghanistan when he nominated him for the post in May. He will replace Army General Martin Dempsey, who is expected to step down in September.

Dunford was confirmed days before lawmakers leave for summer recess, after Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York lifted her hold on Dunford, allowing his confirmation to proceed, according to Roll Call newspaper.

Gillibrand has been pushing for removing prosecution of military sexual assault cases from the military chain of command and placing it in the hands of independent attorneys.

Roll Call quoted Gillibrand as saying Defense Secretary Ash Carter had told her the Pentagon would share information she had requested about sexual assaults at the largest base for each branch of the military.

Dunford, the Marine Corps commandant, told senators during a confirmation hearing this month that Russia presents the greatest threat to U.S. national security. [ID:nL1N0ZP15E]

“If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia. And if you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming,” he said.

A White House spokesman said Dunford’s comments did not necessarily reflect the “consensus analysis of the president’s national security team.”

Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Eric Beech

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