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McCain Threatens Gridlock Over Army Mental-Health Waivers
WASHINGTON — A slate of Pentagon nominees faced off with a Senate panel Tuesday about the changes facing military recruiting today, as one key senator warned that confirmation hearings could be stalled again if the Pentagon doesn’t cooperate with new demands for information.
Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee raised questions during a hearing regarding an apparent change in Army recruiting efforts to issue waivers for people with a history of serious mental health illness.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said his committee shouldn’t have learned about the change through a USA Today report Sunday, and if more information isn’t forthcoming, the Pentagon nomination process could get stalled again.
“I don’t envision a confrontation,” McCain said of another delay over nominees. “But there may be.”
The comments, along with McCain’s plans to investigate the recruiting matter, came after a hearing for three Pentagon nominees vying for top military leadership positions, including Army general counsel.
During Tuesday’s hearing, McCain said that the committee’s recourse is to stop approving nominations if the Pentagon continues to keep defense hawks on Capitol Hill out of the loop on major military concerns.
The standoff between the committee and the Pentagon over nominees is familiar territory under President Donald Trump’s administration.
In October, McCain said he was holding Pentagon nominations hostage at least in part because of a disconnect between Congress and top military officials. McCain railed that the officials, including longtime friend and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, were not forthcoming on several major concerns, including two deadly Navy ship collisions this summer, a change in war strategy in Afghanistan under loosened rules of engagement and the ambush last month in Niger that killed four American soldiers.
By late October, the committee saw a turn of events with several public and closed hearings on the Navy ship collisions, war strategy and Niger. A threat of a McCain subpoena on the Niger ambush triggered a personal Capitol Hill visit from Mattis.
With the floodgates reopened, the Armed Services Committee is poised to hear from 17 nominees this month – close to the same number who testified before the panel in the first seven months of Trump’s presidency. The committee has confirmed more than 10 nominees this month.
“We’re talking about getting information, just like we did a couple of weeks ago when we had to find out about Niger,” McCain said.
On Tuesday, the committee also approved Robert H. McMahon as assistant secretary of defense for logistics and material readiness; R.D. James as assistant secretary of the Army for civil works; Bruce Jette as assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology; and Shon J. Manasco as assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs.
The committee also considered a new panel of nominees: James E. McPherson as Army general counsel, Anthony M. Kurta as principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and Gregory E. Maggs as judge of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
McPherson said the change in Army recruiting raised questions for him as well, and it would be one of his top priorities should he be confirmed.
“That’s a troubling report,” he said. “I believe history has shown that when you bring in individuals through a waiver process, there’s a risk involved in that, a risk that they might not turn out to be exemplary soldiers. If confirmed, I intend that to make that one of my earlier questions.”
In additional testimony, McPherson said as Army general counsel he would tackle a long list of challenges.
“The Army today faces some very difficult legal issues ranging from personnel programs such as gender integration into the combat arms, the service of transgender soldiers, and the accession of non-US citizens to the need to improve the efficiency and flexibility of the acquisition process and to the scourge of sexual harassment, sexual assault and retribution against those that report such offenses,” he said. But with help of the Army, McPherson said they “will attack these issues with renewed energy and resolve to finding solutions.”
Kurta, who is vying to become principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, testified that he doesn’t see a recruiting future without members of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“There are skills that population has that the Department of Defense needs,” he said. “I see a future where the department is able to recruit from that non-U.S. citizen population.”
©2017 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
A former Fort Bliss solider stood bruised and badly injured in court Thursday as he pleaded guilty to cutting the throat of another soldier during a 2017 drug robbery.
Zachary Johnston, who appeared in court in an orange jail jumpsuit and shackles around his ankles, pleaded guilty Thursday to a lesser count of murder as part of a plea agreement with state prosecutors.
He also appeared in court with two black eyes, bruises and cuts all over his face after he was involved in a jailhouse fight.
Johnston was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in connection with the brutal slaying of Tyler Kaden Croke, 23, on May 7, 2017, during a drug robbery at the Cantera Apartments in East El Paso. Croke, 23, was in the U.S. Army and served a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Saudi ambassador to the United States visited a U.S. naval air station in Florida on Thursday to extend her condolences for a shooting attack by a Saudi Air Force officer that killed three people last week, the Saudi embassy said.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Thursday tested a conventionally configured ground-launched ballistic missile, a test that would have been prohibited under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
The United States formally withdrew from the landmark 1987 INF pact with Russia in August after determining that Moscow was violating the treaty, an accusation the Kremlin has denied.
The Taliban may not have breached the walls of Bagram, but they damaged the hell out of its main passenger terminal
Blasts from Taliban car bombs outside of Bagram Airfield on Wednesday caused extensive damage to the base's passenger terminal, new pictures released by the 45th Expeditionary Wing show.
The pictures, which are part of a photo essay called "Bagram stands fast," were posted on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service's website on Thursday.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
A retired Navy SEAL running for Congress wore a U.S. Navy dress white uniform at a recent campaign event, Business Insider has learned.
Republican candidate Floyd McLendon of Texas spoke to an audience at his campaign kick-off event in November, wearing the Navy uniform adorned with numerous medals — including what appeared to be the Navy SEAL Trident, the insignia reserved for members of the elite community like McLendon.
The inaugural event in Dallas was held in the 30th congressional district, a different district than the one McLendon is running in. Political strategists in Texas described the venue's location as highly unusual for a House candidate.