WASHINGTON – The Senate today voted to confirm three appointees for the Pentagon.
By unanimous consent, the Senate confirmed David Norquist to be comptroller, Robert Story Karem as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs and Kari Bingen as principal deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence.
The trio brings the total number of political appointees at DoD to five, including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson.
The three nominees also represent a trend of the Trump team choosing individuals from the Republican establishment, rather than outsiders in line with the president's "Drain the Swamp" motto. Norquist served in the Bush administration and is the brother of noted Republican advocate Grover Norquist; Bingen, who has served in several congressional staff positions, is currently the policy director for the House Armed Services Committee. She previously worked as a top space policy analyst for the Aerospace Corporation. Karem has worked as a Middle East adviser to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, a legislative aide to now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and a national security adviser to both Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy in the House.
Three more nominees – Elaine McCusker to be deputy comptroller, Robert Daigle, to be director of the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office and Kenneth Rapuano for assistant secretary of defense, homeland defense and global security – still await a vote in the full Senate.
Earlier in the day, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed his belief that Democrats were slow-rolling the confirmation process.
"We're talking about it. By the time the [Memorial Day] recess is over, we'll have some coherence. But we had like six [nominees], and the Democrats will only allow us three. That's terrible," McCain said.
In addition, Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan is still waiting for a formal nomination for the role of deputy secretary of defense, after having been announced as the choice over two months ago.
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.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.