Two Key DOD Officials Progress Through Senate Confirmation

The Senate confirmed David Norquist as deputy defense secretary on July 30, 2019, and will now consider US Strategic Command boss Gen. John Hyten's nomination to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Defense Department photos by Lisa Ferdinando/staff illustration by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

David Norquist was sworn in as deputy defense secretary July 31 after the Senate confirmed him by voice vote July 30. He’s been acting in that role since Jan. 1, when then-Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan became acting secretary.

The Defense Department’s top two civilian positions are now filled by Senate-approved officials for the first time all year.

Senate Armed Services Committee members also voted 20-7 on July 31 to send US Strategic Command boss Gen. John Hyten’s nomination to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on for the full chamber’s consideration. The committee’s approval comes one day after a high-profile confirmation hearing that focused in part on sexual-assault claims levied against the four-star general by a former subordinate.

Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), and Gary Peters (Mich.), as well as Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, voted against Hyten, according to NBC News.

Both Norquist and Hyten’s superiors—Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Army Gen. Mark Milley—have already been confirmed.

As deputy secretary, Norquist will be the Pentagon’s chief operating officer, managing a $685 billion budget and 2.8 million people, with oversight over the Pentagon’s daily operations, future planning, and personnel. As comptroller, he helped lead DOD through its first financial audit, during which he said the Air Force “identified approximately 41,000 [contractor-]held inventory items which have not been used or requested in more than a decade.”

Norquist promised to push lawmakers to give the proposed Space Force the right transfer authorities for forces, missions, and organizations to be able to do its job well.

“The most significant challenges I will face as deputy secretary of defense is modernizing our military capabilities to compete, deter, and if necessary prevail in a high-end fight; and realizing reform efficiencies across the department to achieve greater affordability and performance,” Norquist added in his July 19 responses to the Senate’s advance policy questions.