Pentagon & Congress

Senate confirms new leaders for SOUTHCOM, US Forces Korea

WASHINGTON — Amid a flurry of pre-election confirmations Thursday, Senate lawmakers finalized plans for new leaders of U.S. forces in South Korea and U.S. Southern Command.

The moves came in wrap-up work as lawmakers head back to their districts for a month-long legislative break of campaigning. The House began its recess late last month, and both chambers aren’t scheduled to return to town until a week after the Nov. 6 election.

Senate Republican leaders had threatened to keep their chamber in session for the entirety of October if a deal couldn’t be reached on a host of pending judicial nominations opposed by Democrats. Fifteen such nominees were approved in a deal on Thursday, the latest in a sizable wave of new judges picked by President Donald Trump.

That agreement also paved the way for less controversial defense nominations. Without opposition, lawmakers moved ahead with plans to move Army Gen. Robert Abrams from the lead role at Army Forces Command to the head of U.S. Forces Korea and to move Navy Vice Adm. Craig Faller from his Pentagon leadership role to the top post in U.S. Southern Command.

Of the two, Faller’s nomination was more problematic because of his links to the “Fat Leonard” scandal involving a disgraced defense contractor who lavished naval officers with gifts and bribes for lucrative military deals.

Faller was cleared of wrongdoing by military officials for his visits to controversial parties overseas in 2004, but several senators voiced concerns during his confirmation hearing about the issue.

With his confirmation finalized, Faller will also be promoted from vice admiral to admiral.

The Senate also confirmed two new assistant defense secretaries: James Stewart, for manpower and reserve affairs, and Robert McMahon, for sustainment.

The defense moves also included more than 2,700 other pending military promotions.

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