WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced plans to appoint a pair of veterans to lead the Pentagon’s personnel and readiness office, the latest in a recent flurry of defense nominations.

Trump has nominated Robert Wilkie to serve as undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and the president nominated Anthony Kurta to be his principal deputy. Wilkie currently serves as a senior adviser to Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., while Kurta has been acting as the office’s top official since January.

The posts are responsible for a host of issues within the Pentagon, including National Guard and Reserve affairs, military health issues, training priorities and quality of life matters for both civilian and military personnel.

Kurta has been overseeing that office since shifting into the acting post from his previous role as deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy. He is a 32-year Navy surface warfare officer who commanded multiple ships, including the destroyer Carney and the mine countermeasures ship Sentry.

Wilkie was a member of Trump’s presidential transition team, and he served as assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs and special assistant to the president for national security affairs during George W. Bush’s administration.

He is a naval reservist turned Air Force reservist who graduated from both the U.S. Army War College and College of Naval Command. He is currently assigned to Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

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In a statement, Tillis praised his staffer’s appointment.

“Robert Wilkie has been indispensable as my senior advisor, and his nomination is a crystal-clear indication that Secretary of Defense (Jim) Mattis is committed to choosing the highest caliber people possible to help him lead the Pentagon,” he said.

“I can’t wait to keep working closely with him on behalf of North Carolina and our servicemembers and military families.”

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Wednesday’s White House announcement also included the nomination of Raytheon official Mark Esper to be the next Army secretary. That means Trump has nominated 16 individuals for top Defense Department jobs in the last two months after naming only eight in the first four months of his presidency.

Lawmakers have complained about the slow pace of nominations, but Senate Democrats have also slowed much of the confirmation process with parliamentary maneuvers on the chamber floor in protest of Republican legislative moves.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at lshane@militarytimes.com.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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