WASHINGTON — The Senate has filled two empty seats at the Pentagon in the last 24 hours.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted 75-15 to approve Victor Mercado to be assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities. That was followed by a Wednesday vote, 78-17, to confirm James Anderson — currently confirmed for the role Mercado will take over — to be deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.
Mercado retired as a rear admiral after 35 years in the Navy in late 2018, becoming deputy assistant secretary of defense for plans and posture a few months later.
Anderson has been in the assistant secretary role since August 2018 but performing as deputy undersecretary of defense for policy since David Trachtenberg retired in July. His profile was raised again Feb. 19, when John Rood, the undersecretary for policy, was forced out, at which point Anderson began acting in that role.
With the confirmations, there are now 17 senate-confirmable seats open at the Pentagon. Thirteen of those spots have no announced nominee, including the full undersecretary of policy — a role Anderson is likely to continue to fill.
Still awaiting a vote from the Senate Armed Services Committee are Louis Bremer to be assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict; John Whitley to be director of the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office; Shon Manasco to be undersecretary of the Air Force; Jason Abend to be the Defense Department’s inspector general; and Michele Pearce to be general counsel of the Army.
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.