WASHINGTON — Five new Pentagon appointees appear poised to cruise through confirmation.
The nominees — Alan Shaffer, to be deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment; Veronica Daigle, to be assistant secretary of defense for readiness; Robert McMahon, to be assistant secretary of defense for sustainment; Casey Wardynski, to be assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs; and Alex Beehler, to be assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment — enjoyed light questioning and friendly comments from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing Tuesday.
“It’s a great team. I’m just very proud. I’ve never seen a panel of more qualified people,” SASC acting Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said at the conclusion of the panel, adding that he intends to quickly see their votes through the committee.
What happens after that, however, is unclear. With the Senate nearing election season and a number of high-profile issues to be dealt with — including the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh — it is possible that mid-level Defense Department nominations could end up sliding off the docket for some time.
Shaffer, a longtime Pentagon hand who would serve as the No. 2 for the Pentagon’s acquisition and sustainment structure under Ellen Lord, was asked several times about his priorities. While the obvious No. 1 priority was keeping ahead of near-peer competitors like Russia and China, he emphasized that the department needs to keep people in front of mind.
“We have to work on the workforce. Acquisition is not something someone can walk in off the street and do well. We’ve got to really focus on giving every bit of training to our young program managers and empower them to make a mistake — not big mistake — but empower them” to experiment and prototype, Shaffer said, echoing comments made by Lord last year.
Daigle, for her part, identified aviation readiness as a priority for her, specifically mission-capable rates that have become a struggle in recent years.
Both McMahon and Beehler were asked by senators about recent reports of contamination at military installations, with both men pledging it would be a high-priority issue for them if confirmed.
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.