WASHINGTON — Senate Armed Services committee chair Sen. John McCain says he's troubled by the "incredibly slow" pace at which the Trump administration is filling vacancies for key jobs at the Pentagon.
"It's really wrong," McCain said Thursday. "It's very bad because they can't function well without their people filling these slots."
According to a list maintained by the Washington Post, only one of more than 50 positions at the Department of Defense requiring a nomination from the president has been confirmed: that of Defense Secretary James Mattis.
The Trump administration has named four people to fill other positions, but two of those nominees — Philip Bilden for Navy Secretary and Vincent Viola for Army Secretary — have since dropped out.
McCain said he believes the pace at which this White House is naming candidates is slower than that of administrations past. The Washington Post analysis found that Trump is sending nominations to the Senate slower than former president Barack Obama, but faster than former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
McCain, whose committee is charged with vetting nominees, said he's "talked to everybody" at the White House, including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Vice President Mike Pence, about the vacancies.
Asked by BuzzFeed News what those White House officials have told him, McCain said, grinning: "Well, of course, as you can see, there's been immediate reaction."
In early February, Foreign Policy reported that Mattis – who has known McCain for years — was "not happy" about pushback he received from top White House aides, including Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, on his preferred picks for key Pentagon positions.
CNN has reported on similar disagreements between Mattis and the White House over staffing.
"General Mattis, who is traveling all the time, doesn't have any of his [...] team there, none of the service secretaries," McCain said Thursday. "So I think it's bound to reduce his effectiveness. He should have his own team."
Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, told BuzzFeed News that Mattis and his team "are actively conducting interviews and working collaboratively with the White House to nominate people to the Senate for confirmation.
"We are in the final stages of vetting on several of these, and expect they will be announced soon," Davis said in an email. He did not answer a question about whether the nomination process under the Trump administration has been slower than others.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.