WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday confirmed a Defense Department official who will be tasked with overseeing the logistics of the sprawling, multifaceted effort to deliver military equipment to Ukraine, as it defends itself against a Russian invasion.
Senators voted 94-1 to confirm Christopher Lowman as the assistant secretary of defense for sustainment. Lowman most recently served as acting undersecretary of the Army until February, and President Joe Biden nominated him as the assistant secretary for sustainment in November.
The assistant secretary for sustainment oversees U.S. military logistics and material readiness, and also reports to the under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, who is currently Bill LaPlante.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., repeatedly held up the nominations of Lowman and several others meant to fill roles at the Pentagon, citing the Biden administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. Hawley demanded that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin resign over the exit alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
When Lowman’s home-state senator, Democrat Tim Kaine of Virginia, attempted to confirm him quickly on the Senate floor via unanimous consent in March, Hawley objected in a speech that focused on some of the most horrific scenes of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
Kaine tried confirming Lowman once again via unanimous consent in April alongside a tranche of other Pentagon nominees, highlighting the assistant secretary for sustainment’s vital role in the ongoing effort to arm Ukraine.
“Given the fact that the United States is the key to pulling together the international effort to provide support to the Ukrainian defense force and given the fact that that mission depends upon having the best logistics in the world, why would we leave the chief logistics officials at the Pentagon position vacant in the middle of a war?” Kaine said.
This argument did not persuade Hawley, who once again blocked Kaine’s unanimous consent request. Hawley did not specifically address Lowman’s nomination, instead focusing his opposition to one of the other Defense Department nominees that Kaine had sought to confirm by unanimous consent in April: Ravi Chaudhary to serve as assistant secretary of the Air Force.
Hawley accused Chaudhary of proposing the use of artificial intelligence “to track members of the military, identify them as extremists and then have them expelled.”
Chaudhary first made the proposal last year in an op-ed for Foreign Policy News, but later said he regretted writing it after coming under intense Republican criticism for the idea during his Senate confirmation hearing in February.
Hawley was the lone senator on Wednesday to vote against Lowman. He was also one of 10 other Republican senators to cast a procedural vote on Monday against advancing a $40 billion supplemental funding package to provide additional military and economic aid to Ukraine.
Hawley said the bill is “not in America’s interests” as it “allows Europe to freeload” and “short-changes critical interests abroad.”
The bipartisan Ukraine aid bill is expected to easily pass the Senate in a floor vote slated for Thursday.
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered the intersection of U.S. foreign policy and national security in Washington since 2014. He previously wrote for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.