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Adm. James Winnefeld Jr., Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld Jr., Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

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2013 Security

Defense Department

Adm. James Winnefeld Jr., Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

As the nation's second-highest-ranking military officer, Winnefeld, 57, not only fills in for the chairman during his frequent absences from the Pentagon but also manages three major portfolios: people, policy, and investments. On the people side, he and other Pentagon leaders have struggled to cope with a "silent epidemic" of sexual assault in the ranks. In policy, the list of concerns includes Syria, Iran, and North Korea. Meanwhile, the sequester—which could mean nearly $1 trillion in defense cuts over the next decade—turned the military's investment plans upside down. "As Winston Churchill said, 'Gentlemen, we're out of money, so now we have to think,' " Winnefeld recounted during a speech at the Atlantic Council. "That's sort of where we are at this point in time." Winnefeld is a former "Top Gun" instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School and a naval aviator who flew F-14 Tomcats off aircraft-carrier decks. He has commanded a fighter squadron and a carrier strike group in combat, and he was the commander of the Navy Sixth Fleet in Europe. Other former commands include the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the U.S. Northern Command. A graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Winnefeld received his commission through the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps program. As a Navy brat, he grew up on the move, but still considers San Diego to be home.

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