Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) may move to schedule roll call votes by the start of February for less than a dozen DoD nominees placed on hold by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who wants Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Tony Blinken to resign over the handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal last August.
It is customary for the Senate to approve qualified nominees by unanimous consent, but Hawley’s hold means that the Senate must conduct roll call votes on those nominations. Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have also placed holds on nominations of dozens of U.S. State Department officials and ambassadors. Senate roll call voting on the nominations’ backlog could take weeks.
Among the DoD nominees on hold are Andrew Hunter, who is the Biden administration’s pick for U.S. Air Force acquisition chief, and Alex Wagner, who is to be assistant Air Force secretary for manpower and reserve affairs.
Hawley is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and SASC Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) has approached Hawley to discuss resolving the nominations’ impasse.
SASC advanced the Hunter and Wagner nominations to the full Senate last Oct. 21 (Defense Daily, Oct. 22, 2021).
President Biden nominated Hunter last July 16.
Hunter served in a number of positions in Congress, including in the 1990s as the defense aide for then-Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), as legislative director for then Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), and as a staff member of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China.
Most recently, Hunter directed the Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and, if confirmed, will follow in the footsteps of fellow CSIS alumni, Kathleen Hicks, who is serving as deputy defense secretary.
From 2011 to November 2014, Hunter served as a Pentagon senior executive, including as the director of the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell in 2013, where he was charged with fielding solutions to urgent operational needs and leading the work of the Warfighter Senior Integration Group “to ensure timely action on critical issues of warfighter support,” per his CSIS biography.
Hunter has ties to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, as Hunter was Kendall’s chief of staff when Kendall served as DoD acquisition chief in 2012.
One of Hunter’s top priorities, he told senators last year, is to reduce Air Force sustainment costs for the Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35A fighter (Defense Daily, Oct. 5, 2021).