WASHINGTON — Before leaving town for the summer recess, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee touted the large number of Pentagon nominations that cleared the committee, and noted that more are expected to be considered in September.
The Senate in the month of July confirmed the top two civilian positions at the Department of Defense: Mark Esper as secretary of defense and David Norquist as deputy secretary of defense. The Senate also confirmed top military leaders: Gen. Mark Milley to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Adm. Michael Gilday as chief of naval operations.
“Since the beginning of the summer, the Senate has confirmed more than 4,500 military nominees,” Inhofe noted in a news release on Friday. The Senate Armed Services Committee “took on an aggressive hearing schedule in order to clear as many nominations as possible.”
In September, SASC plans to consider additional DoD civilian and military nominations as they are received from the White House. The Army and the Air Force are still without Senate-confirmed civilian leaders. The White House announced June 21 the nomination of Ryan McCarthy, the undersecretary of the Army under Esper, as Army secretary. Trump tweeted on May 21 that he intended to nominate former U.S. Ambassador Barbara Barrett as secretary of the Air Force, but the nomination has yet to be formally submitted to the Senate.
A DoD official told SpaceNews that Barrett’s paperwork is “in the final stages.” A formal nomination from the White House should come during the month of August., the official said. “The second week of September is being looked at for a confirmation hearing for Barrett and McCarthy.”
Inhofe said “it’s critically important that we have Senate-confirmed leadership in place at the Pentagon. That’s why the Senate Armed Services Committee put in so much time and effort over the month of July to confirm well-qualified nominees.”
Another high profile nomination that cleared the SASC but has yet to be voted by the full Senate is Gen. John Hyten for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Inhofe told reporters after Hyten’s hearing July 30 that he hoped for a full floor vote before the August recess. But that was not possible because many senators still have questions about Hyten and a former aide’s allegations of sexual misconduct against the general.
On July 23, his first day on the job as confirmed defense secretary, Esper told reporters that he agreed with critics that “we need to get staffed up quickly.” The Defense Department had been without confirmed secretary for nearly seven months, the longest period in its history.
“My key goal is to get positions filled as quickly as possible, keep pushing folks through this system,” he said. “We’ve got to get stable leadership in to make sure that you have that civilian control of the military, the right people in place leading this organization.”