This approach undergoes its first test.
Brown had been in his new position for less than a week on October 7 when he woke up early in the morning to a phone call informing him that Hamas had launched a deadly attack on Israel. He spent the day making calls to other senior army officers and following up on reports of the unfolding – and escalating – violence.
The Hamas attack and subsequent fighting put Brown in a difficult position: overseeing U.S. support for two foreign wars at once: Israel and Ukraine. And he’ll probably make more behind-the-scenes moves than Milley.
Brown is not one to make news. In his public appearances, he generally sticks to the facts and rarely displays his emotions. Brown did not speak publicly about the Hamas attack until days after it occurred, letting his civilian counterparts take the lead on messaging.
Milley was undeniably one of the most important Joint Chiefs chairmen in modern history, credited with leading the military through America’s most significant crises in recent years – the Covid-19 pandemic. , an insurrection and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But his off-the-cuff comments have at times made him a lightning rod and, some say, politicized the military.
Milley used his final speech as president late last month to deliver an impassioned speech emphasizing that troops swear an oath to the Constitution and not to a “wannabe dictator.” It was seen as a slap in the face to his former boss, President Donald Trump, who had suggested Milley be executed.
Brown, meanwhile, made no public comments, even as his confirmation as president was delayed four months due to a Republican senator’s months-long wait on high-ranking military promotions.
Some analysts say Brown’s low-key approach will allow military leaders to keep their heads down and focus on the job at hand.
“I think it will be very good for the relationship between the American public and its military, and between political leaders and the military, to have someone who listens as attentively and speaks as little as General Brown,” he said. said Kori Schake, the director of foreign and defense policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute
But it will also face new challenges.
Brown will now have to balance U.S. military assistance in hot wars in Europe and the Middle East, at a time when U.S. defense contractors were already struggling to meet demand related to the Ukraine conflict. And he’ll have a limited number of lieutenants to help him, thanks to the Alabama senator. Tommy TubervilleContinued stranglehold on high-level promotions due to military abortion travel policies.
He’s already working on juggling the “two wars” part. After advising Sunday on the decision to send an aircraft carrier strike group to the Eastern Mediterranean, Brown quickly returned to Ukraine.
That Monday, he left for Brussels to meet with European leaders and urge them to maintain the pace of military support for kyiv.
In his remarks to reporters during the trip, Brown exuded confidence, saying the U.S. military can meet the needs of Israel and Ukraine.
“No one says we’re going to take it one challenge at a time. And so, as a department, we have to be able to meet all of these challenges,” Brown said.
Brown has experience going from crisis to crisis. He led U.S. Air Force Central Command when then-President Barack Obama launched the first U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State in 2015. And he commanded Pacific Air Forces when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in China in early 2020.
But Milley’s high-profile approach helped reassure the American people that the military would not blindly follow illegal orders during Trump’s tumultuous tenure. If Trump is re-elected in 2024, Brown will have to find his own way to deal with an unpredictable commander in chief.
And Milley, along with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, created the Ukraine Defense Contact Group and forged relationships with his counterparts across Europe that were crucial in rallying support for Kiev.
Yet Brown is no automaton. After George Floyd died in police custody in the summer of 2020, Brown — who was awaiting Senate confirmation to become the Air Force’s first Black chief of staff — released a report. emotional video speaking about his experience as a black airman.
There are also signs that Brown may lean in more during his public appearances. Speaking to the traveling press, Brown spoke about his reactions in the first hours of the Hamas attack.
“It was one thing, when I received the first reports, just verbally,” Brown said of the conflict in Israel. “But then I see the images on television. And I was pretty much stuck…next to my phone in front of the TV, almost the entire weekend. And it’s horrible. Brown said it reminded him of the early stages of the air campaign against ISIS.
Current and former colleagues describe Brown as a good listener who prefers to absorb all information before making a decision, but then takes action when necessary. And they say he knows how to make sure no one feels left out of the process.
Those skills already proved useful in bolstering support for the war in Ukraine in his former role as Air Force chief of staff, his colleagues say.
“More often than not, it was about trying to get some consensus, that is, getting people into the game,” said retired Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, a former commander of American air forces in Europe and Africa until his death. mid-2022, who worked closely with Brown, then Air Force chief of staff, when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
And some foreign partners might welcome a change from Milley’s tendency to speak his mind. The former president ruffled some feathers last fall when he said during an appearance at the Economic Club of New York that a Ukrainian victory could not be achieved militarily, and suggested that winter could be an opportunity to start negotiations with Russia.
The comments sent senior administration officials scrambling to assure Ukraine that it was not compromising its goal of expelling Russian invaders.
Brown’s quieter approach could also change the dynamic between the Pentagon’s civilian and military leadership. Austin was also considered the most reluctant compared to Milley; now the secretary of defense could make more headlines.
This is already happening. Austin made a surprise visit to Tel Aviv last week, while Brown returned home to Washington. At a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart in Tel Aviv last week, Austin appeared to warn the Israeli government against “revenge.”
“Terrorists like Hamas deliberately target civilians, but not democracies,” Austin said. “Now is the time for resolution not revenge, for determination not panic, for security not capitulation. »