The Senate confirmation hearing for Ashton Carter, President Obama's pick to replace Chuck Hagel as defense secretary, has been moved back to the first week of February, said Sen. John McCain, new head of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The hearing had been slated to take place this month, however Carter's need to recover from back surgery reportedly caused the delay, a Senate staffer confirmed. McCain had wanted to move quickly on the issue in order to expedite the transition.
"I said we were ready to go the first day – we could have had a hearing today," McCain said to a Politico reporter. "He told me that he would be ready for a hearing the first week in February. It was a health issue. He had an operation."
The delay prolongs Hagel's stay at the Pentagon, potentially adding tension and discomfort to efforts to bring in a new defense secretary. Meanwhile at the Pentagon, spokesman Rear Adm. Johnathan Kirby told reporters Carter is being assisted in preparations by a Pentagon team led by Michael Lumpkin, currently serving as acting Under Secretary for Policy.
Kirby added that the prep team "continues to share policy papers with Dr. Carter" to get him ready for the upcoming hearing. The team has office space in Pentagon but Carter has not yet been in the building since he was named by Obama, Kirby said.
Carter previously served as the deputy defense secretary before he stepped down in 2013. He is known for the work he's done in attempting to reform the Pentagon's acquisition system and rushing new trucks into Iraq to protect service members from roadside bombs.
-- Kris Osborn can be reached at email@example.com