Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, commander of the Green Berets, emerged Tuesday as the front-runner for replacing Army Gen. John Shalikashvili as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, administration officials said Tuesday night.
Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said President Clinton had not made a final decision, but Shelton was expected to be the recommendation of Defense Secretary William Cohen.
Cohen, who discussed the vacancy with Clinton last week, plans to meet with the president as early as today to recommend Shelton. If the president concurs, an announcement could come this week.
Cohen’s first choice to succeed Shalikashvili was Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, but he withdrew from last month after disclosure of an adulterous affair several years ago.
Shelton is head of the Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.
The Special Operation Command is popularly known as the Green Berets.
Shelton, a former commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, N.C., won praise for his role as the ground commander of the 1994 operation in Haiti.
At the last minute, with paratroopers already in the air, the mission was switched from a full-scale airborne invasion of the Caribbean nation to a less-confrontational insertion of American troops.
Shelton also is a favorite of Cohen, who took a liking to the Green Berets during his service on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
During the Persian Gulf War, Shelton was the assistant commander of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, which led a helicopter assault pursuing Iraqi guard divisions all the way to the Euphrates River in one of the largest air operations ever mounted.