A Democratic House staffer who has worked the nuclear weapons and strategic systems portfolio for the House Armed Services Committee for a decade will get a Pentagon post with a similar bailiwick in the Joe Biden administration.
Leonor Tomero will be deputy assistant director for nuclear and missile defense programs after inauguration day, the publication Defense One reported Tuesday. In that role, which does not require Senate confirmation, Tomero will be responsible for day-to-day oversight of national nuclear-weapons and missile defense policy at the Department of Defense, including treaty negotiations that touch on either.
Tomero has been the Democrats’ lead staffer on the strategic forces portfolio since Bob DeGrasse vacated the post in 2011 to lobby for Bechtel National: a major contractor in the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons complex.
Tomero did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Tuesday. Biden is scheduled to be sworn as president Wednesday at 12 p.m. Eastern time. If his administration appoints Tomero as expected, she will replace Robert Soofer, himself a former House Armed Services Committee Staffer.
Soofer is a strong proponent of the ongoing nuclear modernization program started by the Obama administration and lightly supplemented by the outgoing Trump administration. He has said the program is a cheap guarantor of international and military stability.
Tomero, on the other hand, has spent the entire Trump administration supporting House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith’s (D-Wash.) drive to shake up the orthodoxy Soofer promotes, helping to craft language in successive National Defense Authorization Acts to slow procurement of the Air Force’s next-generation, nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.
If she makes it to the Pentagon, Tomero will join — albeit in a different organization — her former Hill colleague Drew Walter, who in late 2019 left his job as Tomero’s Republican counterpart among House Armed Services Staff to perform the duties of deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear matters.
Walter has since become the permanent deputy undersecretary and will remain at his post for at least the beginning of the Biden administration, according to someone familiar with the organization’s post-inaugural plans. Nuclear matters, staffed with interagency representatives from the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons labs, among others, has a narrower focus on nuclear weapons programs than the office Tomero is reported to be joining.
Tomero and Walter’s departures ended about a decade of stability for nuke watchers on Capitol Hill. Tomero is preparing to jump to the executive branch only a week after Walter’s eventual replacement on Armed Services, Jason Schmid, resigned from the committee in outrage after some GOP lawmakers voted against certification of electoral college votes for Joe Biden. Those lawmakers cast their votes only hours after a violent mob of pro-Trump rioters looted and vandalized the Capitol building Jan. 6.