President Trump moves to fill out top ranks at Pentagon

President Trump moves to fill out top ranks at Pentagon
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President Trump is expected to begin filling out the top ranks of the Pentagon this week by naming new secretaries for both the Army and Navy.

Trump has narrowed the field and will nominate former Army lieutenant colonel and Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green (R), who is now running for governor, as Army secretary, according to a source familiar with the vetting process.

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The source said investment banker and former Marine aviator Richard V. Spencer will be Trump’s nominee to be the next Navy secretary and that Lockheed Martin’s global security policy vice president, Ryan McCarthy, will be nominated as Army undersecretary.

Green, whose Tennessee campaign website describes him as “a conservative Christian, veteran, father, husband and businessman,” has been a state senator since 2012 and in January filed paperwork to run for governor for the 2018 state gubernatorial election.

He already has ties to Trump’s White House.

Darren Morris, the Tennessee director for Trump’s presidential campaign, is leading Green’s campaign for governor. Green will give up that race should he be confirmed as Army secretary.

Green’s military background is noteworthy. He is a former special operations flight surgeon who was the emergency physician during Operation Red Dawn, which captured Saddam Hussein in 2003. He was the first person to interrogate Hussein following the capture.

The 1986 West Point graduate left the military in 2006 and in 2009 founded Align MD, an emergency department staffing company.

Green is also involved with several military and community-focused charities.

He serves on the board of directors for American Physician Partners and is a member of the executive board of the Middle Tennessee Boy Scouts of America. He’s also a board member for Soldiers and Families Embraced and Reboot for Recovery.

McCarthy is a former Army Ranger and special assistant to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

He’s been at Lockheed Martin since 2011 and worked on numerous programs, including the F-35 joint strike fighter, which Trump has lambasted as too expensive.

A defense industry consultant described McCarthy as “not a household name” but someone who “has a very good reputation, a hard-charging guy, that knows how the building works.”

As a special assistant to Gates, McCarthy was the “right hand of the Defense secretary with front-office access.”

The source added that Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, who has stayed on in the Trump administration on an interim basis, "very much pushed and promoted him,” the consultant said. “It’s interesting that a guy sent down to Lockheed ended up in a program that’s under fire by Trump.”

Spencer, who would be in charge of the Navy and Marine Corps, is an investment banker who currently heads Fall Creek Management LLC, a private, Wyoming-based consulting firm. A Marine aviator from 1976 to 1981, Spencer has ties to the Pentagon and an extensive business background.

After leaving the Marines, Spencer worked on Wall Street for 15 years with Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Bear Sterns and Paine Webber and served as vice chairman and chief financial officer of intercontinental exchange.

Spencer is also the vice chairman of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, an advisory board member at Washington think tanks Center for Strategic and International Studies and Center for a New American Security, and a member of the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel. He also served on the Pentagon’s Defense Business Board from 2009 to 2015.

This is Trump’s second attempt to nominate an Army and Navy secretary. Army Secretary nominee Vincent Viola and Navy Secretary nominee Philip Bilden both withdrew from consideration in February. They both have vast financial holdings, which would have made it difficult to meet Pentagon requirements against conflicts of interest.

The Senate Armed Services Committee last week interviewed Air Force Secretary nominee Heather Wilson, a former Republican congresswoman from New Mexico. Wilson is the second of Trump’s Pentagon picks to be interviewed by the Senate. Only one Defense Department nominee, Defense Secretary James Mattis, has made it through the confirmation process.

Trump now has 52 Pentagon positions to fill that require Senate confirmation.

He has nominated just 12 people since December, including Viola and Bilden. 

Updated 11:16 p.m.