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General Peter Pace
Home : About : The Joint Staff : Chairman : General Peter Pace

Peter Pace

Chairman from Oct. 1, 2005 – Sept. 30, 2007

Peter Pace
Peter Pace
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Peter Pace was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 5 November 1945. The son of an Italian immigrant who worked as an electrician in the city, he was the third of four children. Growing up in Teaneck, New Jersey, Peter played soccer and baseball, ran track, and learned that constant practice developed proficiency. He applied this philosophy throughout his adult life.

Following graduation from Teaneck High School in 1963, Midshipman Pace entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, joining his older brother Simone, two years his senior. The younger Pace majored in Mechanical Engineering (Ship Propulsion Option) and earned a varsity letter in soccer. The experience of training novice midshipmen during their Plebe Summer convinced him that he was more suited for a career in the Marine Corps infantry than the Navy submarine service. The precedent set by his older brother, a Marine who had earned a Silver Star and Purple Heart in Vietnam, also influenced Pace’s decision to join the Marines.

Upon graduation from the Naval Academy on 7 June 1967, Second Lieutenant Pace received a commission in the United States Marine Corps. In August he reported to The Basic School at Quantico, Virginia. A student in Basic Course 2-68, he received training in military fundamentals and infantry tactics and finished at the top of his class. Next, he completed a brief course in supporting arms coordination at Camp Pendleton, California. Lieutenant Pace deployed to Vietnam in February 1968 and assumed command of 2d Platoon, Company G, 2d Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. Arriving at the end of the North Vietnamese Tet offensive, he took part in the conclusion of the battle for Hue City. During the following year he participated in eleven major search and clear operations; these involved aggressive patrolling and could escalate into brigade-size engagements. On 18 August Pace earned the Bronze Star for valor by leading his platoon in a flanking maneuver against a fortified position that had halted the company’s advance on an enemy supply complex. Crossing a stream and several rice paddies under enemy fire, Pace’s platoon enveloped the fortified enemy position. Afterward, he became the battalion’s assistant operations officer and was promoted to first lieutenant on 7 September.

Lieutenant Pace returned to the United States during March 1969 and reported to the Marine Barracks in Washington, DC. After serving as Head of the Infantry and Intelligence Writer Unit at the Marine Corps Institute for six months, he took command of 2d Platoon, Guard Company. Besides performing official ceremonies, the platoon provided security at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland. A year later he took charge of the Special Ceremonial Platoon, which included the Silent Drill Team, Marine Corps Color Guard, and Body Bearer sections. He also served as a White House Social Aide and advanced to captain on 1 March 1971.

In September 1971 Captain Pace transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he attended the US Army Infantry Officer’s Advanced Course, graduating second in his class. Simultaneously, he finished a masters degree in business administration at George Washington University, which he had begun during his previous assignment. He then completed the Nuclear and Chemical Target Analysis Course in July, finishing first in his class, and the Basic Airborne Course in August.

Captain Pace’s next assignment took him to Okinawa, Japan, in September 1972. After briefly commanding Headquarters and Service Company, 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, he deployed to Nam Phong, Thailand, in October. He joined Task Force Delta, serving as the operations officer and later executive officer of a battalion-size security detachment attached to Marine Air Base Squadron-15. The detachment protected the Thai Air Force Base hosting Marine Aircraft Group 15, then engaged in air combat operations in Vietnam. As part of his duties, Pace also advised a Royal Thai security guard company.

In October 1973 Captain Pace returned to Washington, DC, where he became the Assistant Major’s Monitor for the Officer Assignments Branch at Headquarters, Marine Corps. In this capacity, he managed the careers of over 2,000 ground officers, matching professional skills, development needs, and individual desires when fulfilling specific manpower requirements.

Captain Pace subsequently reported to Camp Pendleton, California, in October 1976. He first served as the operations officer for 2d Battalion, Fifth Marines, and was promoted to major on 1 August 1977. His next assignments were as the Executive Officer for 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, and finally as Staff Secretary to the Commanding General of 1st Marine Division.

In August 1979 Major Pace returned to Quantico, Virginia, to attend the Marine Corps Command and Staff College. Following graduation, he assumed command of Marine Corps Recruiting Station, Buffalo, NY, in July 1980. During this three-year tour, Pace was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 1 October 1982 and led the organization during its ascent from forty-third to the fifth ranked station in the nation.

Lieutenant Colonel Pace came back to Camp Pendleton in May 1983 and took command of 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, which served as the air contingency battalion for 1st Marine Division. The battalion then deployed to Okinawa, Japan, in September 1984, where it became the air contingency battalion for 3d Marine Division. The following January it joined the 35th Marine Amphibious Unit. During that time Pace also served as the amphibious unit’s operations officer and commander of the landing force during Exercise Beach Guard 1-85 in the Republic of the Philippines.

In June 1985 Lieutenant Colonel Pace entered the National War College in Washington, DC. After graduation the following year, he moved to Seoul, Korea, for duty with the joint and combined US Forces Korea, Combined Forces Command, and United Nations Command. He initially served as Chief of the Ground Forces Branch, Operations Section, of the Combined-Joint Staff. He reorganized the branch to lead the combined battle staff within the crisis action system and personally authored revisions to contingency plans. In April 1987 he became the Executive Officer to the Assistant Chief of Staff for operations. This assignment enabled him to develop an appreciation for the varied perspectives that different organizations might have for the same issue.

After assuming command of Marine Barracks Washington, DC, in August 1988, Pace was promoted to colonel on 1 October. In addition to overseeing traditional ceremonial and security functions, he intensified the unit’s tactical training and developed a light infantry capability within the command. His efforts enabled the barracks to deploy a reinforced rifle company to Southwest Asia during Operation DESERT SHIELD, which provided security to the 2d Marine Division Command Post during Operation DESERT STORM. Concurrently, Pace was the Director of the Marine Corps Institute; he revised nonresident professional military education and enhanced the tactical training guides for units deploying to the Persian Gulf region.

In July 1991 Colonel Pace moved to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He served as Chief of Staff for the 2d Marine Division until February 1992, when he became the Assistant Division Commander. Frocked to brigadier general on 6 April, he oversaw establishment of the Riverine Assault Craft Platoon and its initial deployment to South America, as well as exercise employment of the Mobile Riverine Force.

Brigadier General Pace then went to the Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico, Virginia, in June 1992. While serving concurrently as the president of Marine Corps University and Commanding General of Marine Corps Schools, he completed the Harvard Program for Senior Executives in National Security and received two temporary assignments. From December 1992 to February 1993 e served as Deputy Commander of Marine Forces Somalia during Operation RESTORE HOPE. This US-led international effort secured the area around Mogadishu and enabled humanitarian relief operations to resume after disruption by the nation’s warring factions. Then, from October 1993 to January 1994 Pace served as Deputy Commander of US Joint Task Force Somalia during Operation CONTINUE HOPE. Part of the United Nations Operation in Somalia II, this initiative sought to maintain security and foster development leading to long-term stability.

Frocked to major general on 21 June 1994, Pace reported to Yokota Air Base in July as the Deputy Commander of US Forces Japan, serving under then-Lieutenant General Richard B. Myers, USAF. Leadership of the joint force assigned to defend Japan and support operations in Korea necessitated both military and diplomatic skills. In the latter capacity, Pace served as the US Representative to the Joint Committee, the principal interlocutor between the United States and Japan on all status of forces issues. He worked to allay Japanese concern over the implication of the American military presence upon their national sovereignty and planned for consolidation of US bases in Okinawa that would not decrease America’s military posture in the Pacific.

Major General Pace returned to Washington in July 1996, where he was promoted to lieutenant general on 5 August and assigned as Director of Operations (J-3), the Joint Staff. His arrival coincided with the publication of “Joint Vision 2010,” the Chairman’s framework for employing advanced technology to enhance service strengths and dominate any battlefield. During the next year, the military responded to crises in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) incorporated three Eastern Bloc nations formerly associated with the Soviet Union.

In November 1997 Lieutenant General Pace assumed command of US Marine Corps Forces, Atlantic, as well as Fleet Marine Forces and Marine Bases, Atlantic, located at Norfolk, Virginia. Besides US Atlantic Command, Pace’s responsibilities included command of Marines in both US European and Southern Commands. To facilitate that role, he transformed existing liaison elements assigned to those organizations into subsidiary Marine component commands. This direct approach proved useful when supporting NATO missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.

After receiving his fourth star on 8 September 2000, General Pace became the Commander in Chief of US Southern Command. Headquartered in Miami, Florida, this economy of force command promoted democracy, stability, and prosperity throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. It achieved these goals by conducting training, civic assistance, and military interaction exercises. These exercises built rapport, enhanced host nation capabilities, and advanced the national drug control strategy, designed to reduce the flow of illicit substances into the United States. By helping to organize, train, and equip partner nations’ security forces, Southern Command enabled them to conduct interdiction operations against the drug growers and traffickers, especially those in the Andean Ridge region. Ongoing efforts to establish the Colombian Counternarcotics Brigade, operate the Joint Peruvian Riverine Training Center, and improve regional aviation facilities were among the initiatives. Southern Command simultaneously developed its theater architecture to meet 21st Century requirements, and provided humanitarian assistance following a hurricane in Belize and an earthquake in El Salvador.

General Pace became the 6th Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 1 October 2001, the first Marine to hold that position. Once again, he found himself serving with General Richard B. Myers, USAF, who became the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the same day. Just three weeks earlier, on 11 September 2001, al-Qaeda operatives had launched multiple terrorist attacks against the United States, striking the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As the nation prosecuted its Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), Pace spent more time addressing strategic plans and policy than acquisition issues, a departure from the Vice Chairman’s traditional role.

Coalition forces launched military operations against al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan on 7 October, toppling the radical Islamist regime three months later. As the administration shifted its attention to other nations that supported terrorism, the Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Combatant Commands prepared for a strike against Iraq and its impact upon the nation’s global defense posture. While the Joint Chiefs evaluated US Central Command’s evolving operations plan, late changes in force composition complicated the pre-invasion buildup. This required that Generals Myers and Pace seek Secretary Rumsfeld’s approval for hundreds of individual deployment orders. To remedy this situation and facilitate the anticipated redeployment of forces following the war, the Joint Staff J-8 began transitioning from the Timed Phased Force and Deployment Data System to a new Global Force Management System.

Coalition forces launched Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 19 March 2003, occupied Baghdad on 9 April, and heard President Bush declare an end to major combat operations on 1 May. Concurrently, during the Elaborate Crossbow exercise series, the Joint Staff, Combatant Commands, and services considered post-war support requirements, force reconstitution plans, and their impact upon global security. Their findings contributed to a realignment of the nation’s defense posture in 2004; increasing the ability to source and surge capabilities cross theater reduced the requirement to preposition forces to support regional combatant commanders during times of crisis.

Although fighting continued in Afghanistan and Iraq, both countries established fragile democracies and showed gradual gains. In Afghanistan, local delegates ratified a new constitution in January 2004, enabling its citizens to vote in presidential elections during September, followed by parliamentary elections a year later. In Iraq, citizens elected a National Assembly and Governorate Council during January 2005; the Assembly ratified Iraq’s new constitution in October 2005.

As Vice Chairman, General Pace also chaired the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), which validated force capability requirements; co-chaired the Defense Acquisition Board, which approved all major acquisition programs; and served on the National Security Council Deputies Committee, the Homeland Security Council Deputies Committee, and the Nuclear Weapons Council. As head of the JROC, General Pace replaced the aging Joint Warfighting Capabilities Assessment (JWCA) with a newer, more versatile Joint Capabilities Integration Development System (JCIDS) in 2003.

Conceptually linked to the Chairman’s Joint Operations Concepts, JCIDS promoted interoperability by identifying, evaluating, and prioritizing strategic capability gaps. To filter the flow of issues through subsidiary “capability” boards, General Pace appointed as “Gatekeeper“ the Joint Staff J-8, Director of Force Structure, Resources, and Assessment. He also instituted the use of operational availability analysis within the evaluation process, enabling the JROC to consider the sustainability of different capabilities when comparing alternatives and to avoid redundancy when fulfilling joint requirements. Board discussions opened to a wider portion of the interagency community.

The JROC also supported the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell (JRAC), an Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) initiative to fulfill joint requirements that, if left unmet, could result in casualties or hamper near-term military missions. Combatant commands forwarded urgent operational needs to the Joint Staff J-8 for validation as immediate warfighting needs. The JRAC then filled the requirements within 120 days, often procuring off-the-shelf capabilities, such as protection from improvised explosive devices, side body armor, and Arabic interpreters.

On 30 September 2005 General Pace became the 16th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first Marine to hold that position. His top priority was to win the war on terrorism by, in part, “assisting others to create good governance and the rule of law—shaping an environment that precludes the flourishing of terrorism.” He advocated broad-based collaboration as a tool to building and enhancing interagency relationships. He emphasized applying the military instrument in a way that would complement and strengthen the actions of other elements of national power. General Pace’s remaining priorities were to accelerate transformation, strengthen joint warfighting, and improve the quality of life of service members and their families. General Pace hired the first senior enlisted adviser to the chairman, Army Command Sergeant Major William J. Gainey. He published the “Chairman’s Planning Guidance” on 1 October 2005, the first ever comprehensive written guidance to the Joint Staff.

The 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review reflected this focus. In concert with efforts to defeat terrorist extremism, defend the homeland, counter weapons of mass destruction, and shape the choices of countries at strategic crossroads, the document advanced the shift toward expeditionary forces, highlighting a need for speed, agility, precision, and lethality when thwarting non-traditional or asymmetrical threats. It also accentuated the military’s supporting role during interagency stability, security, transition, and reconstruction operations, underscoring that the Department of Defense alone could not win the current conflict.

During July 2006 escalating violence in Afghanistan and Iraq prompted a comprehensive policy review. Early in January 2007, one month after Robert Gates succeeded Donald Rumsfeld as the Secretary of Defense, the Bush administration presented its “New Way Forward in Iraq.” This initiative, a strategic realignment to reverse deteriorating conditions in that theater of operations, emphasized the security and development aspects of the “clear, hold, and build” counterinsurgency strategy. It also strengthened the nation’s overall strategic reserve by raising thresholds for the Army and Marine Corps end strengths.

The first of five surge brigades reached Iraq during late January 2007. Six months later General Pace had an opportunity to observe the improvements in Iraq’s security situation firsthand. After visiting Baghdad and Ramadi he told reporters: “A sea change is taking place in many places here. It’s no longer a matter of pushing al-Qaeda out… but rather…helping the local police and local army…get their feet on the ground and set up their systems.”

General Pace retired on 1 October 2007, after more than forty years of active military service. In recognition of his contribution to the nation, President Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on 19 June 2008. Following retirement, Pace served on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and the Secretary of Defense’s Defense Policy Board. He also held leadership positions in several corporations involved in management consulting, private equity, and information technology security, and taught as a visiting/adjunct faculty member at Kelley School of Business, Indiana University; Fordham University; and Georgetown University. He is cofounder and Chairman of Wall Street Warfighters Foundation and has held advisory positions with a number of other organizations designed to support the troops and their families, to include the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, USO, American Corporate Partners, Snowball Express, and Our Military Kids.