House lawmakers urge Trump to fill Pentagon positions

House lawmakers urge Trump to fill Pentagon positions
© Greg Nash

The top lawmakers on the House Armed Services oversight subcommittee are urging President Trump to fill Pentagon positions they say have sat empty for too long.

“We are writing to urge that you nominate a full slate of capable, independent individuals to fill the existing vacancies at Department of Defense’s Offices of the Inspector General (DOD IG) and at the Office of Special Counsel (OSC),” Reps. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), the chairwoman and ranking member of the subcommittee, wrote to Trump this week.

The March 29 letter, released Friday, presses on the importance of the positions in performing “a crucial function, conducting oversight and helping to ensure that the American people know about and have a means to address instances of waste, fraud and abuse in their government.”

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The lawmakers said the two positions save taxpayer dollars and that inspector general offices across the government saved $36.6 billion in fiscal 2015.

Trump has so far only seen one Pentagon nominee — Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital | Mattis, Tillerson reportedly opposed move | Pentagon admits 2,000 US troops are in Syria | Trump calls on Saudis to 'immediately' lift Yemen blockade Trump has yet to name ambassadors to key nations in Mideast Mattis, Tillerson warned Trump of security concerns in Israel embassy move MORE — get through the confirmation process and has 52 additional positions to fill within the Department of Defense (DOD).

Trump has nominated 11 other potential DOD officials since December, but two have dropped out: Army Secretary nominee Vincent Viola and Navy Secretary nominee Philip Bilden.

Mattis has named several preferred picks for the still-empty seats but has reportedly received pushback from top White House aides, including Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner.

Lawmakers indicated that they are growing restless.

“We understand that you have recently withdrawn several nominees for these positions,” Moulton and Hartzler wrote of the inspector general and special council spots.

“We strongly encourage you to expeditiously put forth new nominees and move them through the confirmation process so that these offices can fully exercise their statutory duty to be effective and independent watchdogs.”

Moulton, a former Marine Corps officer, said it should be Trump's top priority to ensure that he has the right individuals in each department and agency.

The unfilled watchdog roles are “particularly concerning” and “a major issue and one that is not partisan,” he said.

“It's critical that President Trump nominate individuals to fill these roles.”