Trump makes little headway filling out Pentagon jobs

Trump makes little headway filling out Pentagon jobs


The nomination hearing this week for President Trump’s Air Force secretary nominee was a rare sight for those monitoring Trump’s progress filling Pentagon positions. 

Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) – whose hearing was delayed several times because the White House hadn’t turned in required documents – is only the second of Trump’s Defense Department (DOD) picks to be interviewed by the Senate Armed Services Committee. 
Trump so far has only seen one Pentagon nominee — Defense Secretary James Mattis — make it through the confirmation process and has 52 additional positions to fill. Many in the defense world are bothered by the holdup. 

One defense consultant told The Hill there are rumblings that the slow pace of the process is causing the Pentagon “to kind of grind.”

“It seems like at some point around March 1 it became more of a problem, the slow, tedious process in filling the posts,” the consultant said.

The sluggish pace is also not missed by lawmakers.

The top lawmakers on the House Armed Services oversight subcommittee this week sent a letter to Trump urging him to fill the existing vacancies at the DOD Office of the Inspector General and Office of Special Counsel.

“We strongly encourage you to expeditiously put forth new nominees and move them through the confirmation process so that these offices can fully exercise their statutory duty to be effective and independent watchdogs,” Reps. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), the chairwoman and ranking member of the subcommittee, said in the letter.

And Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said earlier in March he is troubled by the “incredibly slow” pace.

Katherine Kidder, a military personnel expert at the Center for a New American Security, told The Hill it’s much harder for DOD nominees to make it through the Senate confirmation process due to stricter rules compared to elsewhere in the government.

“The Senate Armed Services Committee has a specific rule about complete divestiture of business interests,” Kidder said. “Whereas for other committees in order to get to a hearing, you can set up a blind trust, for the SASC the rules are a little more stringent, and you have to completely divest your business holdings. Because Trump has been pulling from the business community, it’s kind of exacerbated the effect of that rule.”

But the White House is taking far longer to put forth nominees than the previous administration. A data tracker created by The Washington Post found that as of Saturday, Trump has sent just 43 nominations government-wide to the Senate, and of those, 21 have been confirmed. More than 480 other positions across the government still need nominees.

At the same point in his administration, former President Barack Obama had sent 92 nominees to the Senate and had 37 of them confirmed. 

More than two months into the Trump administration, top Pentagon jobs are mostly filled with acting officials. 

The biggest problem, one defense lobbyist said, is conflict between the new Pentagon head and the White House. 

The tussle became public in March when Mattis pulled his pick for undersecretary for policy, Anne Patterson, after the White House implied it would not fight a likely battle for her confirmation.

“Early on a lot of names that were floated by the Trump folks were rejected by the Mattis folks. A lot of names that Mattis floated were rejected by the Trump folks,” the lobbyist told The Hill. “That really slowed things down and there’s a been lot of friction between the two.”

Source:- TH

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