White House officials moved to fill one of the key vacant posts in the Pentagon’s personnel and readiness office by nominating a former defense official from the George W. Bush administration to serve as the principal deputy under secretary there.

J. David Patterson, currently the senior vice president of strategic business opportunities at the management consulting firm SMA Inc., was named as President Donald Trump’s pick to serve as the second-ranking official in the office, which oversees recruitment, career development, and pay issues for the department.

But if confirmed by the Senate, Patterson would effectively become the top personnel and readiness official within the Pentagon, since the under secretary post has been vacant since July 2018.

Currently, Under Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan is filling that seat in an acting basis. He is the fifth acting administrator to serve in the role in the last five years. White House officials have not said whether he is under consideration to be nominated for the post full-time.

Patterson, of Tennessee, is a former Air Force pilot who served for 23 years, retiring at the rank of colonel. He previously served as Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense in the Comptroller’s Office from 2005 to 2008.

Since then, he has worked as a managing partner at Castlebridge Keep, an acquisition strategy development firm, and as as director at N12 Technologies, which specializes in nanomaterials.

He is also a 1990 graduate of the NATO Defense College.

Patterson’s nomination came a few hours after the Pentagon announced the departure of Eric Chewning, chief of staff for Defense Secretary Mark Esper. House Armed Services Committee minority staff director Jen Stewart will replace him.

At least four other high-profile Pentagon posts have opened up in the last few weeks, raising concerns about the number of acting officials in key leadership posts as the Defense Department approaches its annual budget request to Congress and as tensions in the Middle East continue to rise.

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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