Pentagon & Congress

New Pentagon personnel head, Army undersecretary confirmed by Senate

Senators confirmed a pair of key Pentagon leaders on Monday in what could be among the last few major military appointments for several months.

In wrap up work Monday night, the Senate finalized the nominations of Matt Donovan to be Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and James McPherson to be Undersecretary of the Army.

Both approvals were expected, after the men faced little opposition in confirmation hearings in recent weeks. And both were approved by unopposed voice votes.

But the confirmations were noteworthy not just because of the leadership posts they fill, but also because the fate of future nominations is uncertain.

Senate Armed Services Committee leaders have postponed all hearings on Capitol Hill because of the coronavirus outbreak, and no replacement plans have been announced for public questioning of individuals put forward for other vacancies in coming weeks.

And even before the pandemic, lawmakers were preparing to scale back hearings in anticipation of the congressional elections this fall.

Donovan, the former Air Force Under Secretary, has served as the acting head of the personnel office since early December. He spent 30 years as an active-duty airman including time as a combat fighter pilot, and has served in a variety of senior military roles since his military retirement.

He is the first permanent leader for the office since July 2018, when Robert Wilkie left the role to become Veterans Affairs secretary. In the last five years, the office has only had an official under secretary in the post for about eight months.

McPherson had been serving in the Army undersecretary role since last September, when Ryan McCarthy left the job to take over as Army secretary. He has also been serving concurrently as the service’s general counsel.

He is a former enlisted soldier and retired Navy lawyer and, previously served as general counsel to the Defense Department’s Counterintelligence Field Activity, which oversaw the Pentagon’s counterintelligence enterprise.

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