SASC Sends Esper, Milley Nominations to Senate Floor

The nominations of Army Secretary Mark Esper (left) and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley (right) have been sent to the Senate floor. Defense Department photos.

The Senate Armed Services Committee on July 18 approved the nominations of Army Secretary Mark Esper to be defense secretary and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, setting up a Senate floor vote for Esper within a week.

The vote came two days after Esper’s confirmation hearing, and just three days after the Senate officially received the nomination itself. Esper served as the acting defense secretary before stepping aside during the confirmation process, making Navy Secretary Richard Spencer the Pentagon’s acting top civilian.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) confirmed the chamber expects to vote on Esper no later than July 24. He said there is “no updates or guidance on Milley at this time.”

Esper’s July 16 confirmation hearing featured mostly cordial bipartisan support, with the notable exception of pointed criticism from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) about Esper’s history with Raytheon, including purported limits to his ethics agreement and deferred compensation.

In addition to Esper and Milley, SASC approved 1,231 total military nominations.

The committee on July 18 announced it will also expedite its consideration of David Norquist, the pick to be the permanent deputy secretary of defense. A hearing is set for July 24.

“The deputy secretary of defense is the number-two civilian role at the Pentagon, so it’s incredibly important to receive a formal nomination and confirm the nominee quickly,” SASC Chairman Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said in a release. “But while there is a sense of urgency, the committee must thoroughly consider nominations that we receive.”

Norquist has performed the duties of the deputy defense secretary since January, while both Esper and his predecessor, former Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, led the Pentagon. Norquist became DOD comptroller in 2017. While committee rules state SASC should not hold a hearing until seven days after receiving a formal nomination, this rule is waived for Norquist “because of the importance of the role,” committee leaders said.