WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed a top Pentagon management official, while also moving a group of nominees, including the potential next head of the Army, toward a full Senate vote.
John Gibson was confirmed as deputy chief management officer by a vote of 91-7. Gibson is president and CEO of private spaceflight company XCOR Aerospace and is a former Textron executive. He also served in the Pentagon as deputy undersecretary of defense for management reform as well as assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management and comptroller.
Gibson had been voted out of the Senate Armed Services Committee in July, but had been stalled in the broader Senate. Two other nominees who were voted out of the SASC at that time — Navy general counsel nominee Charles Stimson and Owen West, the Trump administration’s choice for assistant defense secretary — still await their turn for a final confirmation.
In a voice vote, the SASC also advanced Mark Esper to be secretary of the Army; Robert Wilkie to be undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness; Joseph Kernan to be undersecretary of defense for intelligence; and Guy Roberts to be assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs.
That sets up the opportunity for those four to have a full vote in the Senate, perhaps as soon as this week. If confirmed, Esper would fill the sole remaining service secretary vacancy. He is the third person to be nominated for that role.
They may be joined shortly by another quartet, who also had a hearing Tuesday in front of the SASC: Robert Behler to be director of operational test and evaluation; Dean Winslow to be assistant secretary of defense for health affairs; Thomas Modly to be undersecretary of the Navy; and James Geurts to be assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.
Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the SASC, said he expects to advance that quartet at a Thursday committee meeting.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.