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WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday he has decided to replace the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff rather than have them go through contentious renomination hearings before Congress.
Speaking to reporters, and referring to the debate over the war in Iraq, Gates said he envisioned "a confirmation process that would not be in the best interest of the country" were he to renominate Marine Gen. Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Adm. Ed Giambiastiani as vice chairman.
"I concluded that because Gen. Pace has served as chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the last six years, the focus of his confirmation process would have been on the past rather than the future," Gates said.
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CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reported this evening that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Peter Pace's departure from that post may be linked to his recent comments regarding lesbian and gay military personnel. According to Starr's report, Pace's comments, along with his role in planning the war in Iraq and his support for convicted Vice Presidential advisor I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, played key roles in Congressional opposition to Pace's re-nomination. "His recent statements that he believed homosexual statements are immoral" presented a "significant problem" for Pace, according to Starr.