The delay in the announcement of a candidate has already thwarted Grady’s planned handover of the fleet forces to his successor, two officials confirmed. The event originally planned for mid-October has been postponed to November without a date set in stone. His successor, Vice Admiral Daryl Caudle, who left command of the Submarine Force Atlantic on September 10, effectively remains without a job for at least two months.
The tight timing already has some top lawmakers on the border.
Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Forces Committee and a critic of President Joe Biden’s national security policy, said he wanted a candidate “very soon,” and would urge the panel to consider the election quickly, but he did the President that he had not responded sooner to fill the impending vacancy.
“The law is clear, so it should come as no surprise to President Biden that the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff position will soon be vacant has not yet submitted a nomination,” Inhofe said in a statement. “Given the enormous threats we face globally, it is alarming that President Biden would risk leaving the post of second military advisor vacant.
“Still, we shouldn’t be shocked – this is just another example of his complete disregard for the military advice he receives from the Joint Chiefs and the military in general,” added Inhofe, referring to Biden’s opposition from the military who recommended some to retain US troops in Afghanistan.
Senate Armed Forces Chairman Jack Reed (DR.I.) said in a recent interview that his panel would try to work quickly to avoid a lengthy vacancy with the Joint Chiefs, referring to the role of the deputy Chair who chairs the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, a body overseeing the development of military acquisition programs and other senior positions.
“You don’t want that now because … we have a number of issues that we are addressing,” Reed told POLITICO.
When asked for comment, White House officials would only confirm that there is no candidate for the job at the time.
A Republican Senate Armed Forces official estimated that with no issues and close coordination between the Pentagon and Senate leadership, a Pentagon candidate could get a vote in just 15 to 30 days, but noted that the average deadline for most Candidate is longer.
While the Senate could shift into high gear to quickly approve Hyten’s replacement, it would have a significant amount of work to do – including candidate review, meetings with Senators, a confirmation hearing, a committee vote, and a confirmatory vote across the Senate – just weeks before the expected delivery.
With a narrow window, any delay in the Senate where a member could set up procedural blocks and pull out an affirmation could mean a long void in second place in the Joint Chiefs.
That was the case in 2019 when Hyten’s validation process stalled as Senators reviewed a former subordinate’s allegations of sexual assault. Although Hyten was finally confirmed, the vote took place about two months after General Paul Selva stepped down as vice chairman. Overall, the post remained vacant for nearly four months as Hyten waited to hand over the role of Head of US Strategic Command to Richard upon confirmation.
Reed predicted that a nomination must be made by early November to ensure a seamless transition between Hyten and his successor.
“It would take us three to four weeks, one would hope,” Reed told POLITICO. “I know they are working on it,” he added, pointing out that the sooner someone is named for the job, “it would allow Hyten to socialize and talk to the candidate about the specific issue with which he is confronted ”.
The two admirals applying for the job would give the Navy a seat at the table as the Pentagon plans to invest more resources in the Navy and Air Force in the coming years after two decades of tough counterinsurgency.
With the Army and Marine Corps on hold on the presidency since Adm. Mike Mullen’s retirement in 2011, the Air Force Chief of Staff General CQ Brown has been introduced by some as a potential replacement for General Mark Milley when his term ends until 2023. If an Air Force general gets the job, it would be the first time since 2005 that an airman would fill the post.
In the Naval Forces, Grady has overseen the establishment of the 2nd Fleet, a command designed to monitor Russian submarines in the Atlantic and prioritize more operations and exercises in the Arctic, two areas of growing concern. Grady also commanded the 6th Fleet in Europe and was deputy commandant of US Naval Forces Europe and US Naval Forces Africa.
Grady also served as assistant to former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Joe Dunford, and served on the National Security Council and as the commander of the aircraft carrier strike group.
Richard, the current head of Strategic Command, would follow Hyten’s path from STRATCOM to the Pentagon amid the revision of the Nuclear Posture Review and the growth of China’s nuclear ambitions. Richard was a professional submariner prior to commanding the Navy’s Atlantic Submarine Forces and serving as director of underwater warfare at the Pentagon.
In his two years at the Pentagon, Hyten has taken a leadership role in enforcing acquisition reforms, particularly building efforts to get the branches of the armed forces to consider collaborating on purchasing new systems rather than relying on their own closer ones focus as needed.
He also unveiled a new planning document, the Joint Warfighting Concept, which specifies how the services will work together to jointly develop new weapon systems. It’s a tough job, but there has been some movement among the services to find ways to exchange target data and hand over attack missions.
“We’re trying to move fast and allow the department to move fast, but I’m running out of time” before he retires, Hyten said in July.
Hyten’s two-year tenure is a unique case. His departure is the result of legislative changes made required by the National Defense Authorization Act 2017 that the vice chairman now has a single term of four years instead of two consecutive two-year terms. The reason was that the positions of the chairman and the deputy chairman would be postponed by two years.
Taking office on November 21, 2019 after the law went into effect means that if he is reappointed this year, he will have to serve four more years, resulting in an unprecedented six years as vice chief. There have been no public proposals from the White House or the Pentagon that this is an option to be considered.
However, with Hyten’s term running out quickly, some worry about what a vacancy would mean for the Pentagon.
“It is one thing to have Senate-approved civil appointments at the start of a new administration,” said Arnold Punaro, a former chief of staff on the Senate Armed Forces Committee. “But everyone knew that General Hyten’s legally mandated tour was coming to an end, and there is no excuse to interrupt the position of second most senior military leader.”
The Biden administration has had a tough time getting verified candidates through the Senate, but the White House has also been slow to send names to Hill. There are still no candidates to head the Pentagon’s acquisitions office, naval undersecretary, and several top positions in politics and intelligence. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also suffering from a lack of staff. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has held dozens of ambassadors and other high-ranking state offices for demanding that the Biden government impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, which is building a gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.
Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) Has also pledged to block confirmation of a national security candidate until Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan resign over handling the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan .
Military promotions have largely escaped the partisan firestorm for the endorsement of many of Biden’s civilian candidates for the Pentagon, but any senator who opposes the election of the Joint Chiefs or simply wants to get information or concessions from the administration could slow the candidate down.
A single senator cannot prevent a candidate from being confirmed, but he could force Democratic leaders to overcome additional hurdles and burn hours of valuable session time on procedural votes.
As the wait goes on, “it would be a signal of weakness and bureaucracy in a dangerous and uncertain world if no Senate-approved new vice chairman is ready for appointment when Hyten’s tour is over,” Punaro said.