President Joe Biden Taps History-Making Air Force Fighter Pilot to Serve as Next Joint Chiefs Chairman

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he is tapping Air Force General CQ Brown Jr., a history-making fighter pilot with wide-reaching knowledge of China, to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

If Brown is confirmed, it would mean that for the first time, both the Pentagon’s top civilian and military positions would be held by African Americans. The first Black Pentagon chief, Lloyd Austin, has been on the job since the start of the Biden administration. The only other Black person to serve as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs was Army General Colin Powell.

The nomination has been expected for a long while. Brown would replace Army General Mark Milley as the U.S.’s next top military officer if confirmed by the Senate, whose term ends in October. The president unveiled Brown as his choice during a Rose Garden event Thursday afternoon.

The president saw Brown as the right person for the job because of his work to modernize the fleet of U.S. aircraft and its nuclear arsenal and his years of experience in shaping defenses in the U.S. to meet the rise of China, according to a senior administration official. Brown has also been deeply involved in the Pentagon’s efforts to equip Ukraine with U.S. weaponry totaling billions of dollars as Kyiv attempts to fend off Russia’s 15-month-old invasion.

Brown, who is 60, has commanded at every level possible in the Air Force and joint commands, including in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. He has also helped to lead and build the U.S. air campaign against the Islamic State militant group.

General Brown is a career F-16 fighter pilot with over 3,000 flight hours and command experience at all levels. He has broken barriers throughout the entirety of his career. He served as the first Black Pacific Air Forces commander in the military, where he led the U.S.’s air strategy to counter China in the Indo-Pacific. At the same time, Beijing quickly militarized islands in the South China Sea while testing its bomber reach with flights near Guam.

Brown became the Air Force’s top military officer three years ago

Brown became the first Black Air Force chief of staff, the service’s top military officer, three years ago, making him the first African American to steer any of the military branches.

For the past year, the general has been viewed as the top choice to replace Milley, while the Pentagon shifts its focus to deterring a future conflict with Beijing from preparing for significant land wars.

The effort may depend on the ability of the military to quickly meet China’s rise in space, hypersonics, cyber war, and nuclear weapons. Brown has focused on all areas for the past several years as the top military leader in the Air Force, as he sought to modernize U.S. airpower for a modern 21st-century fight.

However, Brown’s confirmation may be delayed. Alabama GOP Senator Tommy Tuberville has been continuing to block military nominations due to his objections over the Pentagon’s policy that provides support for troops and dependents to seek a range of reproductive health care, including abortions and travel funds if they are based in states where they are now illegal.

The chairman of the Joints Chiefs is the highest-ranking officer in the country and serves as the military adviser to the defense secretary, National Security Council, and the president. The chairman must be formally in the chain of command and command troops. However, he plays a crucial role in all significant military issues, from advice on major combat operations to policy decisions. He also meets with all the joint chiefs who head the various armed services.

As chief of the Air Force, Brown has pushed to modernize America’s nuclear capabilities, including the soon-to-launch next-generation stealth bomber, and led the effort to eliminate aging warplanes. Hence, there’s funding to move forward with a new fleet of unmanned systems. Brown has also supported the development of the country’s Space Force, which received many of its capabilities and its first Guardians from the Air Force.