In selecting James L. Jones to be his national security advisor, Barack Obama has chosen a former Marine Corps general who, at the time of his nomination, sat on the board of directors of a leading oil company (Chevron), a leading weapons manufacturer (Boeing), a leading producer of fingerprint scanners and other security devices (Cross Match), and the leading manufacturer of wheelchairs (Invacare), all of which have large contracts with the federal government. Jones has also lobbied on behalf of the energy industry as president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy.
Jones was born in Kansas City, MO, on December 19, 1943. His father, James L. Jones, Sr., served in the Marine Corps during World War II and helped develop the first amphibious reconnaissance battalions used by Marines. Jones Jr. spent most of his youth in France, attending the American School of Paris, and speaks fluent French. He returned to the United States to finish high school, living with his aunt and uncle in Alexandria, VA. He then attended the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and played forward for the Hoya's basketball team, averaging 0.8 points per game. Jones graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1966.
He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in January 1967 and was sent to Vietnam, where he served as a platoon and company commander with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines. While overseas, he was promoted to first lieutenant in June 1968.
Returning to the US in December 1968, Jones was assigned to Camp Pendleton, CA, where he served as a company commander until May 1970. He then received orders to Marine Barracks, Washington, DC, for duties as a company commander, serving in this assignment until July 1973. He was promoted to captain in December 1970. From July 1973 until June 1974, he was a student at the Amphibious Warfare School, Quantico, VA. In November 1974, he received orders to report to the 3rd Marine Division on Okinawa, where he served as the company commander of Company H, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, until December 1975.
From January 1976 to August 1979, Jones served in the Officer Assignments Section at Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, DC. During this assignment, he was promoted to major in July 1977. Remaining in Washington, his next assignment was as the Marine Corps Liaison Officer to the Senate, where he served until July 1984. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in September 1982. Jones was selected to attend the National War College in Washington, DC. Following graduation in June 1985, he was assigned to command the 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton from July 1985 to July 1987.
In August 1987, Jones returned to Headquarters Marine Corps, where he served as senior aide to the commandant of the Marine Corps. He was promoted to colonel in April 1988 and became the Military Secretary to the Commandant in February 1989. In August 1990, Jones was assigned as the commanding officer of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Lejeune, NC. During this tour of duty, he participated in Operation Provide Comfort to protect the Kurds in Northern Iraq and Turkey following the 1991 Gulf War.
Jones was advanced to brigadier general on April 23, 1992. He was assigned to duties as deputy director, J-3, US European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, on July 15, 1992. At this time, he was reassigned as chief of staff of the Joint Task Force Provide Promise for operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia.
Returning to the United States, Jones was promoted to major general in July 1994 and was assigned as commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division, Marine Forces Atlantic at Camp Lejeune. He next served as director of the Expeditionary Warfare Division (N85) in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations during 1996, then as the deputy chief of staff for plans, Policies and Operations, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, DC. He was advanced to lieutenant general on July 18, 1996.
His next assignment was as the military assistant to Secretary of Defense William Cohen. Jones was promoted to general on June 30, 1999, and became the 32nd Commandant of the United States Marine Corps on July 1, 1999. Jones assumed duties as the Commander of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe in January 2003. In this capacity, he commanded all US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Special Forces stationed in Europe. The European Command covers 93 countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Africa and portions of the Middle East.
Jones retired from the Marines Corps in February 2007. After leaving the military, he became chair of the board for the Atlantic Council of the United States, a non-profit organization that promotes relations between the US and Europe. He led a study conducted by the council that concluded that the US and its NATO allies are not winning in Afghanistan. He also has said that the war in Iraq caused the United States to "take its eye off the ball" in Afghanistan. "Symbolically, [Afghanistan] is more the epicenter of terrorism than Iraq. If we don't succeed in Afghanistan, you're sending a very clear message to the terrorist organizations that the US, the UN and the 37 countries with troops on the ground can be defeated."
Since returning to civilian life, Jones has served as president and chief executive of the United States Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy. The institute promotes the expansion of domestic oil and gas production, nuclear energy and clean-coal technology, in addition to investment in renewable and alternative energy sources. Although not a registered lobbyist, Jones' work for the institute has been described as having lobbied on behalf of energy interests. Some environmental groups and global warming activists view Jones' environmental record with suspicion.
In addition to working for the chamber of commerce, in 2007 Jones joined the board of directors of Boeing, Invacare Corporation, and Cross Match Technologies, and in March 2008, he joined the board of Chevron.
European Command Bio
James L. Jones Profile (New York Times)
Obama's Hawk (by Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation)
James L. Jones' Energy Views Worry Some Environmentalists (by Tom Hamburger, Los Angeles Times)
Blueprint for Securing America's Energy Future (remarks by General James L. Jones, Institute for 21st Century Energy)
An interview with General James L. Jones (by David Yost, NATO Defense College Research Paper) (PDF)
The Courting of General Jones (by Neil King Jr., Wall Street Journal)
[Note: this is one of an ongoing series of profiles of Barack Obama's appointees at AllGov.com]
Follow David Wallechinsky on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ALLGOV