Senators express confidence in Norquist during confirmation hearing
July 24, 2019
WASHINGTON — The new two-year federal budget agreement “does right by the men and women in uniform,” David Norquist said Wednesday during his confirmation hearing to be the next deputy defense secretary.
The agreement, which brings the defense budget to $738 billion for fiscal year 2020, will allow them to avoid continuing resolutions, sequestration, and provide two years of planning, Norquist, the Pentagon’s chief financial officer, told before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The legislative agreement made Monday by congressional leadership and the White House included a compromise on President Donald Trump’s proposed defense budget request of $750 billion and the House Democrats who put forth a defense budget at $733 billion.
Norquist’s confirmation hearing is the second that the Senate Armed Services Committee has held in two weeks — the other was for Defense Secretary Mark Esper — as the committee works to help fill critical leadership positions at the Pentagon.
Just like in Esper’s confirmation process, Norquist had his nomination from Trump sent to the Senate the day before the hearing, which had been scheduled about a week out in anticipation of the nomination.
Since January, Norquist had been performing the duties of deputy defense secretary after his predecessor, Patrick Shanahan, stepped up to assume the role of acting defense secretary.
Last night after Esper was sworn in as defense secretary, he delegated the duties of deputy defense secretary from Norquist to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer in deference to the Senate confirmation process. While Norquist awaits the Senate’s confirmation of him as deputy defense secretary, he has returned full time to his position as the Pentagon’s comptroller and chief financial officer, which he has held since 2017.
Senators voiced support during the hearing of Norquist’s nomination and confirmation, including Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the committee, who said he might be the wrong person to be chairman of the hearing because he had already decided to support Norquist.
“In fact, I remember telling the president a long time ago it doesn’t matter who ends up being secretary of defense, so long as you have Norquist in there to help,” he said.
Norquist’s work on the Defense Department’s first full audit, released in November, was commended by several senators, including Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who called Norquist the “father of the audit” and implored him not to lose focus on the audit if confirmed.
“One of the most important missions that the department has,” he said of the audit. “It’s important to us to be able to reassure our citizens, our constituents… that we’re paying attention to where the money is going and that we have a handle on it.”
Norquist assured him that he would.
Norquist also said one of the first things he would do, if confirmed, would be to oversee the implementation of recommendations from a task force set up by former acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to address sexual assault in the military.
The Sexual Assault Accountability and Investigation Task Force focuses on improving the military judicial process. It was set up in partnership with Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who is a survivor of sexual assault during her military service. The task force released several recommendations in May that include updating the Uniformed Code of Military Justice to make sexual harassment a stand-alone crime.
Kenney.Caitlin@stripes.com Twitter: @caitlinmkenney