Senate Confirms Brown As Next Joint Chiefs Chairman

Charles Q. Brown Jr.

Credit: U.S. Air Force

The Senate on Sept. 20 confirmed U.S. Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, approving the new top uniformed officer in the military despite an ongoing blanket hold on Defense Department nominees.

The 83-11 vote came following a surprise move by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to hold cloture votes on Brown as an individual nominee, along with U.S. Army Gen. Randy George to be the next Army Chief of Staff and Gen. Eric Smith to be the next Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. Typically the Senate routinely confirms Defense Department nominees in large groups. Senate leaders have avoided individual votes to attempt to avoid a precedent that would create a logjam of nominees that would dominate the chamber’s time. More than 300 promotions are currently on hold and would require individual votes.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) has for months held up all Pentagon nominees to protest a Defense Department travel policy that reimburses service members who travel out of state to receive abortions. Tuberville was one of 11 senators who voted no on Brown’s nomination.

Votes on the Army and Marine Corps nominees are expected Sept. 21.

Brown will replace retiring Gen. Mark Milley, whose term as chairman ends next month. The vote avoids leaving the position as chairman vacant. Three services are currently without confirmed uniformed leaders, not including Brown. President Joe Biden has nominated Air Force Gen. David Allvin to replace Brown, and Allvin will also need to be confirmed.

Brown was nominated for the role in May. He will be the first U.S. Air Force officer to be chairman in 18 years. As Air Force leader, Brown has overhauled the service’s deployment model while also leading it through large-scale modernization efforts, including the B-21 Raider nuclear bomber, the Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile, early stages of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter and the beginnings of the Collaborative Combat Aircraft program.

He started his Air Force tenure in 2020 with a call for swift change and outlined plans to whittle its fighter fleet to four aircraft—F-15EXs, F-16s, F-35s and NGAD.

In a statement released after the vote, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said Brown has undoubtedly improved the Air Force and will do the same for the entire joint force.

“Looking forward, he will bring his discipline, focus and perspective to his new duties during these consequential times,” Kendall says.

Brian Everstine

Brian Everstine is the Pentagon Editor for Aviation Week, based in Washington, D.C. Before joining Aviation Week in August 2021, he covered the Pentagon for Air Force Magazine. Brian began covering defense aviation in 2011 as a reporter for Military Times.