Guantánamo

President Obama chooses diplomatic admiral to lead Southern Command

Then-Navy Rear Adm. Kurt Tidd, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet, boards U.S. Coast Guard cutter barque Eagle before she arrives at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., April 27, 2012.
Then-Navy Rear Adm. Kurt Tidd, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet, boards U.S. Coast Guard cutter barque Eagle before she arrives at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., April 27, 2012. U.S. NAVY

President Barack Obama has chosen a 37-year U.S. Navy officer whose career has focused on diplomacy and counterterrorism as the next commander of the U.S. Southern Command, the Miami Herald has learned.

A superb choice.

Retired Adm. James Stavridis

Vice Adm. Kurt W. Tidd currently travels with Secretary of State John Kerry as the assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In August, he joined Kerry’s historic trip to Cuba for the flag raising over the U.S. Embassy in Havana. He is also the designated U.S. roadmap monitor of the Middle East Peace Process.

If confirmed by Congress, he replaces Gen. John F. Kelly, who joined the Marines during the Vietnam War and has run the Pentagon subsidiary responsible for U.S. military operations in Latin America and the Caribbean for nearly three years. Kelly, with no onward assignment, is retiring from service. He made a farewell trip to Washington, D.C., this week for a reception hosted by the ambassador from Colombia and a talk at a think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Two Defense officials confirmed the choice, but could not say when the White House would formally announce the nomination. It will be up to the Senate Armed Services Committee to set a timetable for a confirmation hearing.

The president’s choice for the next head of Southern Command comes from a Navy family. His brother, Rear Adm. Mark Tidd, retired last year, after 32 years of service, as the chief of the Navy chaplains corps. His father, Vice Adm. Emmett H. Tidd, was commander of Navy Surface Forces in the Pacific in 1976.

In August, he joined Secretary of State John Kerry at the historic flag raising over the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Tidd knows the region. For 10 months in 2011 and 2012, he ran Southcom’s Fourth Fleet out of Jacksonville, responsible for U.S. Navy activities in Central and South America and the Caribbean Basin. That job typically focuses on regional cooperation and counter-trafficking operations.

Tidd graduated from the Naval Academy in 1978. His classmates included the Pacific Command and U.S. Strategic Command commanders, Adms. Harry B. Harris Jr. and Cecil D. Haney. Tidd’s focus at Annapolis was “Foreign Area Studies,” according to his résumé. He is the most senior U.S. naval surface warfare officer on continuous active duty, known as an “Old Salt,” a title he received in June with the retirement of Adm. Samuel J. Locklear.

The position, based at the Southcom headquarters in Doral, has oversight of an anti-trafficking center in Key West, troops at a forward operating base in Soto Cano, Honduras, and the detention center currently holding 114 captives at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, set up after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Retired Adm. James Stavridis, who ran Southcom from 2006 to 2009, called Tidd “a perfect fit” and “a superb choice” for the job.

“He has terrific linguistic skills, believes in ‘smart power’ ” and has worked with the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, said Stavridis, now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Stavridis defines “smart power” as combining civilian development and diplomacy with the U.S. military to prevent conflict.

In addition, Stavridis said, Tidd “has all the operational skills one would expect of a combatant commander.”

Tidd has held several anti-terror positions, including director for Counterterrorism Policy at the National Security Council from 2005 to 2007 and [serving] on the Chief of Naval Operations War on Terrorism Operations Planning Group, called “Deep Blue,” set up after 9/11. He also commanded a destroyer, USS Radford, in the 1990s.

Carol Rosenberg: 305-376-3179, @carolrosenberg

  Comments