Norquist on Track for Prompt Confirmation as Deputy Defense Secretary

David Norquist, performing the duties of the deputy defense secretary, spoke with members of the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference at the Pentagon on Jan. 9, 2019. Defense Department photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.

David Norquist, the nominee to be the Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian, appears set for a quick confirmation in the same vein as his new boss.

Norquist, who was officially nominated to be the deputy defense secretary on July 23, appeared before a cordial Senate Armed Services Committee for a July 24 nomination hearing where several lawmakers commented that they look forward to confirming him.

Lawmakers have accelerated Norquist’s confirmation following a quick, bipartisan approval of former Army Secretary Mark Esper, who took over as defense secretary on July 24. From the time Esper’s name was sent to the Senate to his swearing-in, his official confirmation process lasted about eight days. Norquist’s vetting appears likely to follow suit.

This week’s SASC hearing served as an overall update on the Pentagon’s focuses on new technologies, readiness, and perceived threats from Russia and China—which in some areas have surpassed the US military’s development.

“The key areas where the gap is most noticeable is in certain new technologies like hypersonics, artificial intelligence, and cyber threats,” Norquist said. “One of the challenges that is facing the department, even as we maintain readiness and the right force structure size, is to ensure that we are investing in those cutting-edge technologies that not only are just advances to warfare, but may change dramatically the way warfare is fought.”

US technology development requires more experimentation and studies “so we’re in position to win the next war, not just the last one,” Norquist said.

Norquist has been performing the duties of deputy secretary in the Pentagon since Jan. 1. The position sat empty since Patrick Shanahan, who held that job under former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, took over as acting secretary when Mattis left in December.

Norquist previously served as Pentagon comptroller and chief financial officer. In that position, he oversaw development of the department’s budget and the first-ever defense finance audit—one that the DOD failed.