Senate confirms Biden’s deputy Defense secretary
The Senate has approved President Biden’s nominee to be deputy Defense secretary, making her the first woman to be confirmed for the job by the Senate.
Senators confirmed Kathleen Hicks in a voice vote Monday night, giving Biden his second Senate-confirmed Defense Department official about a week after her confirmation hearing.
Hicks served as a deputy under secretary of Defense during the Obama administration and led Biden’s Pentagon transition team. Before her nomination to be deputy Defense secretary, she led the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Hicks’s nomination garnered attention both because of the history-making aspect and because Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin pledged to empower Pentagon civilians such as her to assuage senators concerned about him being a recently retired general.
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.
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.
When she is sworn in, Hicks will be the department’s first Senate-confirmed female deputy Defense secretary, though Christine Fox served as acting deputy Defense secretary for six months in the Obama administration.