Italian Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola was chosen on Wednesday as chairman of NATO’s military committee.
Di Paola was voted in ahead of rivals from Spain and Poland.
"I am honored by the confidence shown in me by my fellow chiefs of defense," Di Paola said, adding that he intended to continue reforms to modernize NATO's military.
He will replace Canadian Gen. Ray Henault who steps down in June after his three-year term expires.
Di Paola, who has been Italy's chief of defense for almost four years, will be the second Italian to hold the post.
Standing against Di Paola were Gen. Franciszek Gagor, the Polish chief of defense staff, and his Spanish counterpart Gen. Felix Sanz Roldan.