WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominees to lead the Army and Air Force are expected to have a joint confirmation hearing next week.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled a Sept. 12 hearing for Ryan McCarthy, to lead the Army, and Barbara Barrett, to lead the Air Force. Notably, the hearing was scheduled without either nomination being formally submitted to the Senate by the White House — a move that the committee previously used to try to move nominees through the process for the Defense Department as quickly as possible.
The committee did so with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s nomination earlier this summer, scheduling a hearing in advance but only receiving the formal nomination the night before it was to occur. It will have to receive Barrett and McCarthy’s nominations for the hearing to go forward.
McCarthy is the Army undersecretary and has acted as the service’s leader since Esper was promoted. In his time with the Army, McCarthy drew positive reviews from Capitol Hill, both for his communication with members of Congress and his work with Esper on reforming the Army through the “night court” process.
Barrett, a former chairwoman of the nonprofit Aerospace Corporation, was announced as an intended nominee on May 21. But her nomination process has been silent since, with questions arising about when an actual nomination would arrive at the Senate.
An ambassador to Finland under President George W. Bush, Barrett is also an instrument-rated pilot. In 2009, she trained at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, and in Kazakhstan. She was then certified for space travel. Barrett is also the first civilian woman to land in an F/A-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier.
She reportedly also has a good relationship with Heather Wilson, who resigned as secretary of the Air Force earlier this year to return to academia.
Pentagon leadership hopes these nominations are just the start of a push to fill long-standing vacancies in the department. Speaking to reporters last week, Esper said there are five nominees expected to receive hearings in early September, with another eight undergoing the vetting process from the White House.
Esper did not name the candidates. However, the White House submitted nominations for Dana Deasy to be chief information officer and for Lisa Hershman to be chief management officer ― a position vacated by John Gibson about nine months ago.
Among the remaining vacant senior positions, the Senate is expected to take up the nomination of Gen. John Hyten to replace Gen. Paul Selva, who retired as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs late last month. The Senate Armed Services Committee advanced Hyten last month, despite a subordinate’s allegations that he sexually assaulted her, which he disputed.
Joe Gould in Washington contributed to this report.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.