View Full Version : New Commandant

09-15-02, 08:07 PM

September 6, 2002

A book-smart infantryman who understands the military's high-tech future,
Camp Pendleton's Lt. Gen. Michael Hagee is a solid, no-surprise choice as the
Marine Corps' new leader, colleagues and analysts said yesterday.
Hagee would lead the nation's smallest service during a crossroads period as
the U.S. military fitfully evolves into a lighter, more agile fighting force
the Corps' traditional strength.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has selected the combat-tested Vietnam
veteran as the 33rd commandant in the Corps' 226-year history, according to
news reports this week.
Hagee directs about a third of the Marines' operating forces as commanding
general of the 45,000 Marines in the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp
Pendleton. As commandant, he would oversee all 173,000 Marines.
Marine Corps officials said they wouldn't comment on Hagee's likely
nomination until President Bush makes it official, probably in the next few
weeks. The selection also requires Senate confirmation.
Requests to interview the three-star general yesterday were denied.
Hagee, a trim, 57-year-old Texan who speaks with a slight native twang, is
described as someone with an engineer's brains and an even-keeled nature that
has helped him negotiate the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency
during his 34-year career.
"He's smart, he's flexible, he's pretty unflappable," said retired Marine
Gen. Walter Boomer, a former assistant commandant and now a corporate
executive in Connecticut.
Hagee has a "brilliant mind" and isn't known to raise his voice or display
anger, said Terry Murray, a retired Marine major general and Hagee's
classmate at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Hagee placed 75th in his class, earning an engineering degree with
distinction, among the 836 graduates in the class of 1968, which included
former Lt. Col. Oliver North and former Navy Secretary James Webb.
"He's a very personable, down-to-earth, loves-the-troops kind of guy," said
Stephen Haines, a classmate and chief executive officer of the San
Diego-based Center for Strategic Management. "You feel at home with him
whether you're a general or a grunt."
The current commandant, Gen. James Jones, is leaving to be NATO's supreme
allied commander for Europe. He became commandant in July 1999 and probably
will serve just short of the usual four-year term. Hagee could take over
early next year.
Insiders expressed no surprise over Hagee's selection, although Rumsfeld
passed over at least two respected and more senior generals. One of them,
Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was seen as too
valuable to move from his current job, insiders said.
Rumors had circulated for several months around San Diego that Hagee was a
strong contender. Friends said his leadership was evident back at the Naval
"I always knew he was going to be the guy," said Kendell Pease, a retired
Navy rear admiral and classmate. "He's a Marine's Marine, with all the good
that means."
Hagee's career started with command of a platoon and then two rifle companies
in Vietnam and Okinawa, Japan. Later, he commanded an expeditionary unit on
sea deployment and the Pendleton-based 1st Marine Division. He also served in
warring and famine-stricken Somalia in 1992 and 1993.
Later, he toiled inside the Beltway, emerging with good reviews after stints
as a Defense Department senior assistant and top assistant to John Deutch,
former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
"He's very comfortable operating in Washington," said Jay Farrar, a retired
Marine officer who is now a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies.
"Hagee is well-liked (and) well-respected on the Hill. He will have no
problem getting confirmed . . . (It) will sail through quickly."
Hagee's technical background and CIA work probably will come in handy during
Rumsfeld's tenure.
The Defense Secretary has unveiled a plan to transform the U.S. military,
making it more nimble as it faces unconventional foes.
Rumsfeld never would have selected Hagee or allowed Jones to be elevated
if they weren't faithful to his transformational theme, analysts said.
"With the rise of computers and remote targeting, we're in a major phase of
change in the face of battle and military organizations. (Rumsfeld) is eager
to promote people who support a common view of those changes," said Donald
Abenheim, a visiting strategic analyst at Stanford University's Hoover
"The Marine Corps is sort of marching ahead of this trend," Abenheim said.

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