Fightin’ Joe: The Marine Corps’ New Commandant

June 5, 2014

The U.S. Marines are getting a new commandant.  President Barack Obama has nominated General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. to take over as the Corps’ top officer.  Upon confirmation by the Senate, he’ll replace General James Amos, who is scheduled to step down this fall.  So what do we know about Dunford?

His command experience includes a tenure as commander of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines.  Later, as commander of the 5th Marine Regiment, he led the unit in Iraq at the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  He would go on to spend 22 months in the country, including as assistant commander of the 1st Marine Division.

More relevant to Dunford’s next post, however, is his effective working relationship with the Obama administration.  Upon becoming commandant, he will vacate the post of ISAF commander, in which he has served for 16 months.  In that capacity, he has overseen plans for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, and has played a central role in determining the future shape of America’s presence and involvement there.  In March, he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that between 8,000 and 12,000 troops were needed to ensure that gains achieved in recent years would not be rolled back after 2014, a figure reflected in recent announcements by U.S. officials about planned future force levels.

Equally important is his experience in Washington.  After handing over command of 2/6 Marines, he was named executive assistant to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.  Later, after his time in Iraq, he returned to the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs to serve as Vice Director of Operation (J-3).

Dunford holds two M.A. degrees, one in Government from Georgetown University and another in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Incidentally, the commandant’s term is four years, but there has been speculation that Dunford is a frontrunner to take over as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Current CJCS General Martin E. Dempsey (interviewed by WOTR earlier this year) is expected to leave that post in 2015.


John Amble is the Managing Editor of War on the Rocks.  A former United States Army officer, he has been featured in print and broadcast media in the U.S. and Canada.  Follow him on Twitter @johnamble.


Photo credit: isafmedia