The number of open senior Pentagon positions is slowly shrinking as the Senate overwhelmingly approved Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to become the 20th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff July 25, three days after securing votes for a new defense secretary.
Milley’s nomination was approved by a vote of 89-1, with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) casting the sole dissenting vote. The 10 senators who did not vote include six Democrats, to include five presidential candidates: Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.). Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also did not vote, along with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.).
Milley became the Army’s 39th Chief of Staff in 2015, previously serving as the 21st commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His nomination was widely expected to sail through the Senate and he is expected to take the position once Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford retires as chairman in October.
In a statement issued by the Pentagon Thursday, Milley said he is “humbled and honored” to be confirmed to the post and expressed thanks to President Trump and the Senate for their confidence in him.
The outgoing Army Chief of Staff is the second senior military official to be confirmed by the Senate this week, following the July 22 approval of former Army Secretary Mark Esper to become the first permanent Secretary of Defense since Dec. 31, 2018 (Defense Daily, July 23). Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville is scheduled to take over as the Army’s top military official, while Undersecretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy has been nominated to succeed Esper as the top service civilian.
Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has worked to expedite the nomination of Undersecretary of Defense/DoD Comptroller David Norquist to become the next deputy secretary of defense, holding Norquist’s confirmation hearing July 24, one day after the Senate received his formal nomination from the White House (Defense Daily, July 24).
SASC voted Thursday to move Norquist’s nomination out of committee for consideration on the Senate floor. During floor remarks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listed Norquist’s confirmation vote as one of his top priorities to complete before members leave for their annual August recess Aug. 2, meaning the chamber should vote on his nomination next week.
Defense News reported Thursday that the Senate Armed Services Committee will move forward with a hearing to consider the nomination of Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, to become the next Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hyten was accused of sexual assault by a former insubordinate, but an investigation led by the Air Force earlier this year did not reveal sufficient evidence to charge Hyten, multiple outlets have reported.
The current Vice Chief of Staff, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, is scheduled to retire July 30 after nearly four decades of service.
The White House delivered the nomination of Lisa Hershman to become the Pentagon’s chief management officer (CMO), the number-three official in the department, to the Senate July 22. Hershman has served as acting CMO since last December and previously served as deputy CMO.