CAPITOL HILL: Sen. James Inhofe thinks Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan will be replaced by a senate cleared nominee and says it should be done because acting officials do not have the “force that you should have.” The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee wouldn’t comment on whether Shanahan should be nominated.
“We need to have a secretary of defense; we’ve always had one, so I anticipate we will,” Inhofe told the Defense Writers Group, directly contradicting Trump’s predilection for acting officials. “I think he’s going to nominate someone.” The chairman, arguably the most important legislator in determining whether a presidential defense secretary nominee will be cleared by the Senate, kept any favorites for potential nomination to himself.
However, he told the assembled reporters right after that comment that Shanahan does not share the “humility” that Mattis exemplified, which the senator has repeatedly praised. “He (Mattis) had a very rare quality, humility, that I would like to see rub off.” That, of course, could be read as a signal that Inhofe does not want Shanahan to be nominated.
Trump has said he likes the “flexibility” to make personnel changes.“I like acting because I can move so quickly,” he told CBS News Sunday. Inhofe’s comments come after several senior Republican senators have expressed concern with Trump’s penchant for acting officials, who do not have to face senatorial scrutiny.
The assumption has always been that the president likes acting officials because they aren’t subject to Constitutionally-mandated review by the Senate. Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution says the president “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law…” Congress, of course, passes the laws determining which jobs are subject to nomination and senatorial consent. Most of the top jobs in the Defense Department require nomination, and thus senatorial review.
On the F-35, Inhofe said its production rates should be increased regardless of whether it has completed Operational Test and Evaluation. He has called for tripling production rates over the next five years. While admitting “it’s still got some problems, the chairman said he “didn’t know of anything else that will replace the F-35.”
The prospects for a major debate on Space Command and Space Force are iffy in the full Senate Armed Services Committee. Inhofe said he wants to have hearings, but there was a big but: “It’s on our schedule, but we don’t have dates for it.” He made no comments indicating he has fundamentally changed his views on the need for a Space Force. We may see Space Force hearings by the SASC subcommittees.