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Mattis Finally Gets Some E-Ring Help

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis finally has a financial officer to fill the comptroller's spot at the Pentagon, but dozens of political appointee slots remain vacant four months into the administration of President Donald Trump.

The Senate on Thursday confirmed David Norquist, the former chief financial officer for the Department of Homeland Security and the brother of anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, as comptroller.

In his confirmation hearings, Norquist, a former partner at financial services contractor Kearney & Co. in Virginia, pledged to finally get an audit going at the Defense Department, which has never had one.

"Everything you have heard about the size and complexity of the department is true," Norquist said, "but that is not a reason to delay the audit. That is a reason to begin."

By unanimous consent, the Senate also confirmed Robert Story Karem as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs and Kari Bingen as principal deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence.

Bingen has served in several congressional staff positions, and most recently was policy director for the House Armed Services Committee. Karem has worked as a Middle East adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney and a legislative aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

Three more nominees -- Elaine McCusker to be deputy comptroller; Robert Daigle to be director of the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office; and Kenneth Rapuano for assistant secretary of defense for homeland and global security -- have been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee but still await a vote by the full Senate.

The Pentagon has more than 50 slots for political nominations by Trump requiring Senate confirmation. The confirmations of Norquist, Karem and Bingen appears to bring the total number of political appointments at DoD thus far to five, counting Mattis and new Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.

The posts of Army secretary and Navy secretary remain open, and the No. 2 position at the Pentagon is still held by Deputy Secretary Bob Work, an Obama administration holdover.

Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan has been named by Mattis to replace Work, but he has yet to be formally nominated by the White House more than two months after his name was announced. Work had expected to leave the post this month.

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