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Senate panel advances Biden's pick for Pentagon No. 2 position

Senate panel advances Biden's pick for Pentagon No. 2 position
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The Senate Armed Services Committee has advanced President Biden’s nominee to be the No. 2 civilian at the Pentagon.

In a voice vote late Thursday night, the panel sent Kathleen Hicks’s nomination to be deputy Defense secretary to the Senate floor, committee Chairman Jack ReedJack ReedOn The Money: CDC extends coronavirus eviction ban through June 30 | Biden to detail infrastructure proposal Wednesday | US won't quickly lift Trump tariffs on China Senate panel ties on embattled Pentagon nominee Battle heats up over Pentagon spending plans MORE (D-R.I.) announced Friday. Hicks would be the first Senate-confirmed woman to serve in the job.

“Dr. Hicks is a highly regarded national security and defense policy expert with extensive experience in government and the private sector,” Reed said in a statement.

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“This committee has relied on Dr. Hicks’ expertise to shape defense policy and conduct oversight, and I am pleased we are advancing her nomination to serve as deputy secretary of Defense with strong, bipartisan support. This position is critical to national defense, and I hope the full Senate will confirm her as soon as possible, without needless delay.”

Hicks served as a deputy under secretary of Defense during the Obama administration. Before her nomination to be deputy Defense secretary, she led the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Biden's historic selection of Hicks comes after the president chose a recently retired general to be Defense secretary.

Senators largely supported Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists The paradox of US-India relations Pentagon chief to visit Europe, Israel amid tensions with Russia, Iran MORE’s confirmation despite some lingering concerns about eroding the norm of civilian control of the military. However, Austin pledged to empower civilian voices in the building during his confirmation hearing, including Hicks if she is confirmed.

Austin also pledged to recuse himself from decisions involving defense contractor Raytheon Technologies for the entirety of his tenure because he previously served on the company’s board of directors.

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That means decisions involving Raytheon will fall to Hicks, including major nuclear weapons programs such as the new cruise missile known as the long-range standoff weapon, in which the company is a prime contractor, and the intercontinental ballistic missile replacement known as the ground-based strategic deterrent, in which a Raytheon subsidiary is a subcontractor.

During her confirmation hearing, Hicks said she supports nuclear modernization and personally supports all three legs of the nuclear triad, but did not endorse any specific weapons programs. She said her involvement as deputy secretary will be on programmatic decisions and made clear she would defer to Austin and Biden on questions of U.S. nuclear policy.

Hicks also left the door open to defense budget cuts, saying that while the country “can afford the defense that it needs to have,” she thinks there are ways to trim the budget without sacrificing national security.

The Pentagon has projected relatively flat budgets for the next few years because of external pressures such as ballooning U.S. debt, but progressive Democrats are expected to push for at least a 10 percent budget cut.

It is unclear when the full Senate will take up Hicks’s nomination.

The Senate is scheduled to start former President TrumpDonald TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech MORE’s impeachment trial Tuesday, and is not expected to consider nominations during the trial. The Senate is convening for one day before the trial, but has already scheduled a vote on a different nominee Monday evening, Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughCongress must address the toxic exposure our veterans have endured Veterans shouldn't have to wait for quality care The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality MORE, to be Veterans Affairs secretary.