Biden farewells top general Milley, warns of shutdown on military

President Joe Biden farewelled top U.S. general Mark Milley on Friday after a four-year tenure, thanking Milley for his service but also warning of the effects of a U.S. shutdown on the nation’s military.

“Mark, your partnership has been invaluable to me and I give you my word for that, and I think it has been invaluable to Secretary Austin as well. I want to thank you for always seeing, always sharing the whole map with me,” Biden said at the farewell ceremony during the ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall near Washington.

“Our military is going to keep growing stronger, keep growing stronger, with General CQ Brown, Charles Q Brown Junior, as our 24th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Congratulations old buddy,” he added.

“I’ve been here a long time. I’ve never seen anything like this (reference to shutdown). It’s outrageous. And it must stop. Their (soldiers) promotions, their careers, their families, their future held hostage by the political agenda of one senator and the silence of another 47 of them, to drag on our force. It impacts everything from readiness to morale to retention. It’s an insult. An insult to the officers. Years of dedicated service. Our troops deserve so much better. If the House fails to fulfill its most basic function, if it fails to fund government by tomorrow, it will have failed all our troops,” Biden said.

Milley will hand over command to Air Force chief General Charles Q. Brown, who will be only the second Black officer to become chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after Colin Powell two decades ago.

“We are unique among militaries. We do not take an oath to a country, a tribe, or a religion. We do not take an oath to a king, or a queen, to a tyrant or dictator and we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator,” Milley said.

“We do not take an oath to an individual. No, we take an oath to the Constitution, to the idea that is America, and we’re willing to die to protect it,” he added.

Milley saw successes like the killing of ISIS head Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and helping Ukraine to defend against Russia’s invasion, but also included the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and a rocky relationship with former President Donald Trump.

Brown is a self-described introvert whose public persona contrasts sharply with the outgoing Milley, a loquacious Boston native.

When Brown, a former fighter pilot with experience in the Pacific, takes command, Black Americans will hold the top two positions at the Pentagon for the first time – a major milestone for an institution that is diverse in its lower ranks but largely white and male at the top.

The move follows President Joe Biden’s appointment of Lloyd Austin to become the first Black U.S. secretary of defense, the top civilian position at the Pentagon.