Centcom’s 20 Nations Present Vexing Challenges, Nominee Tells Senate

The 20 countries that make up the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility are as diverse and unique as any in the world, but they also present a vexing set of challenges, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. told the Senate Armed Forces Committee today.

McKenzie made his remarks during his confirmation hearing to be the next commander of Centcom. If confirmed, the existing director of the Joint Staff would also be promoted to the rank of general.

“We have vital strategic interest in the Central Command area of responsibility and we’re going to need to stay engaged to address these issues,” McKenzie told the committee.

“Under [its current commander, Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel], Central Command has fostered outstanding relationships across its area of responsibility with myriad senior civilian and military leaders including those from Egypt, Jordan, the [Persian] Gulf States and across Central Asia,” he said.

McKenzie said Votel also has worked tirelessly with the State Department, the Agency for International Development, and a host of other government and nongovernment organizations, and pledged to continue those interactions.

“The work of our colleagues in the Department of State is critical and if confirmed, supporting them will be a very high priority for me personally, and interaction with allies and partners across the region will also be a matter of great importance,” he said.

Leading A New Generation

If confirmed, McKenzie said he hopes to lead a new generation of Centcom professionals to carry on the work of Votel and those leaders who came before him in meeting the command’s challenges.

“Our nation is safer and stronger because of his selfless service,” he said of Votel’s leadership.

Centcom remains a dangerous theater of war, McKenzie noted, adding, “I am certainly mindful of the burden we had born in the past and that unfortunately we will continue to bear.”

Army Lt. Gen. Richard D. Clarke, the Joint Staff’s director for strategic plans and policy, was also at the hearing to discuss his own nomination for commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

“In my opinion, the president could not have nominated anyone better to be the next Socom commander than Lt. Gen. Rich Clarke,” McKenzie told the committee. “He is an exceptionally talented, morally grounded and strategically minded officer, and if we are confirmed, I look forward to the opportunity to continue to march alongside him in Tampa and across the theater.”

The nominee told the committee he vows to faithfully pursue the “policies and orders of the president and the secretary of defense within the authorities you have provided combatant commanders; and moreover, that I will be open and transparent with you and the rest of Congress.”