Senate Confirms New SOUTHCOM Boss, DOD Personnel Leader

The Senate on Aug. 11 confirmed a new leader for U.S. Southern Command and a new undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. The pace of confirmations ticked up with the approach of Congress’ August recess.

The Senate confirmed Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, commander of United States Army North, to receive her fourth star and to lead SOUTHCOM. Richardson will be the second woman to lead a combatant command, following retired Air Force Gen. Lori J. Robinson, who commanded U.S. Northern Command before retiring in 2018.

President Joe Biden nominated Richardson for the job in March while also nominating USAF Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, current Air Mobility Command boss, to lead U.S. Transportation Command. That nomination is still pending without a confirmation hearing date set.

The Senate also confirmed former Rep. Gil Cisneros to lead DOD personnel and readiness. Cisneros, who was a Democratic representative for California’s 39th district until early this year, is a Navy veteran who served as a supply officer for 11 years.

Earlier in the week, the Senate also made additional confirmations, including:

  • Mara E. Karlin to serve as assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities. Karlin formerly served as acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.
  • USAF Maj. Gen. Ricky N. Rupp to receive his third star and to command U.S. Forces Japan and Fifth Air Force. Rupp currently commands the Air Force District of Washington.
  • USAF Maj. Gen. Russell L. Mack to receive his third star and to serve as deputy commander of Air Combat Command. Mack currently serves as the assistant deputy chief of staff, operations, in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations.
  • Carlos Del Toro to be the next Secretary of the Navy.