Former Princeton ROTC Cadet General Mark Milley ’80 was officially confirmed as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by the Senate on Thursday, July 25. The University alum will now be the highest ranking officer in the United States Armed Forces and will serve as President Trump’s most senior military adviser.
Milley’s confirmation was decided on a 89–1 vote with broad bipartisan support, in an otherwise immensely divided legislative body. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley GS ’82 cast the sole vote against Milley’s confirmation.
Milley will be the twentieth person to occupy the Chairman role and is set to replace outgoing Chairman Marine General Joseph Dunford, who will retire this fall.
At the University, Milley received an A.B. in politics and took part in the ROTC program. Since his undergraduate years, he has risen through the military ranks, leading some of the most consequential counter-terrorism efforts in the nation’s history. Milley served in Egypt, Panama, Haiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, and Afghanistan, before most recently serving as the 39th Chief of Staff of the Army.
In a year that will mark the University ROTC program’s 100th anniversary, current cadets anticipate that Milley’s appointment as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will serve to elevate the status and renown of the program in the eyes of the military community.
ROTC Cadet Captain Caleb Visser ’20 has observed firsthand how Milley’s stature can impact the program’s reputation while attending conferences at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
“One of the first things they say when they find out I go to Princeton is, ‘Oh, that’s where General Milley went, so you must have a pretty good program,’” Visser said. “We’ve had generals in the past, of course, but very rarely have we seen a Chief of Staff of the Army or a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs who didn’t graduate from a service academy.”
During the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing held earlier this month on July 11, Milley told senators he would carry out any “legal, ethical, and moral” orders from the President but would “not be intimidated into making stupid decisions” and would give his best military advice regardless of the consequences to himself.
“The American people elected civilian control of the military. We’ll provide our advice, we’ll provide course of action, we’ll talk about risk and consequence,” Milley said. “When the decision-maker makes the decision, it’s our job to execute.”
During the hearing, he also discussed modernization, rising Chinese military power, and transgender military service. He emphasized that he considers China “a competitor” as opposed to “an enemy,” but emphasized that he sees China as “the primary challenge to the U.S. national security over the next 50 to 100 years.”
New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez voted to confirm the General, while New Jersey Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker was not present at the vote, spending the day in Indianapolis to speak at the 2019 National Urban League Annual Conference.
Of the other six 2020 presidential candidates currently in the Senate, only Colorado Senator Michael Bennet cast a vote. Bennet voted to confirm Milley. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, California Senator Kamala Harris, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren did not vote on the matter.