WASHINGTON — The nomination of Elaine McCusker to be comptroller of the department of defense has been withdrawn by the White House.
Late Monday night, the White House formally announced the nomination was withdrawn. Defense News had previously confirmed the news, first reported by Politico.
In early February, the New York Post reported that McCusker’s nomination was doomed, based on concerns she raised about suspending defense funding to Ukraine in 2019; that delay became the seed of the impeachment case against President Donald Trump. A nomination process would require her to testify in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which could open her up to on-record questions about those concerns.
Following the Post report, both DoD officials and SASC chairman Jim Inhofe cast doubt on the news. At a Feb. 19 press briefing, Pentagon public affairs head Jonathan Hoffman said McCusker is “still the president’s nominee... I’ve not seen anything additional that would lead me to believe that that is a reality.”
A career civil servant, McCusker has served as acting comptroller for just over a year, since David Norquist was tapped to serve as deputy defense secretary. She played a critical role in the department’s audit process, as well as the development of the FY20 and FY21 budgets. She has remained a respected figure within the department. Whether McCusker will remain in her confirmed role as deputy comptroller is not immediately clear.
On Feb. 19, undersecretary of defense for policy John Rood was forced out of his role; sources say that move was at least partly influenced by Rood’s own push back on halting the Ukraine funding, although defense officials have denied a connection.
In a statement, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top democrat on the SASC, called McCusker "another casualty of the Trump Administration’s efforts to purge public servants who put country before fealty to the President.
“The termination of her nomination is collateral damage by a President who has vindictively purged career national security professionals caught up in the impeachment inquiry. Ms. McCusker is a dedicated civil servant with decades of experience at the Department of Defense," Reed said.
Joe Gould in Washington contributed to this report. This story was updated 3/2/20 at 7:35 PM EST to reflect the formal withdrawal of the nomiantion.
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.