McCain Blocks Obama’s Defense Nominees

Robert Work and Christine Wormuth gave “naive” answers at their confirmation hearing, the senator said.

McCain: Balks at "baked in" overruns.
National Journal
Sara Sorcher
Feb. 25, 2014, 12:53 p.m.

Sen. John Mc­Cain is block­ing Pres­id­ent Obama’s picks to fill seni­or Pentagon po­s­i­tions, call­ing their an­swers to ques­tions at a Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee con­firm­a­tion hear­ing Tues­day “na­ive” and “non­sensic­al.”

The Ari­zona Re­pub­lic­an was vis­ibly frus­trated that Robert Work, Obama’s nom­in­ee for deputy De­fense sec­ret­ary, was not in­tim­ately fa­mil­i­ar with a crit­ic­al gov­ern­ment re­port de­tail­ing cost over­runs from the Lit­tor­al Com­bat Ship pro­gram.

Sep­ar­ately, Mc­Cain ripped Christine Wor­muth, Obama’s pick for un­der­sec­ret­ary of De­fense for policy. The nom­in­ee, he said, was either ig­nor­ant of the threat al-Qaida poses or was re­fus­ing to an­swer his ques­tions about the ter­ror­ist group’s spread.

“Their an­swers were not only na­ive but non­sensic­al,” Mc­Cain told re­port­ers Tues­day.

Want to know what happened, ex­actly?

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4764) }}

Work, a former Navy un­der­sec­ret­ary, has been a strong ad­voc­ate of the Lit­tor­al Com­bat Ship pro­gram — a next-gen­er­a­tion sur­face ship his­tor­ic­ally con­tro­ver­sial for its delays and cost over­runs. The Pentagon has in­struc­ted the Navy to scale back its planned pur­chase of 52 ships down to 32 ships.

After Work de­scribed the new plan as “very nor­mal with Navy ship­build­ing,” Mc­Cain in­ter­jec­ted, ask­ing if Work be­lieves the “cost over­runs” as­so­ci­ated with the ship were nor­mal.

The ex­change is here:

Sep­ar­ately, Mc­Cain called out Wor­muth for de­scrib­ing al-Qaida as a “nod­al threat.” Earli­er this month, Dir­ect­or of Na­tion­al In­tel­li­gence James Clap­per said al-Qaida was not on the path to de­feat, and that the ter­ror­ist net­work is in­stead “morph­ing” as its fran­chises spread to hot­spots around the world. Here’s what happened when Mc­Cain pressed for de­tails about Wor­muth’s slightly awk­ward phras­ing:

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4763) }}

Work and Wor­muth oth­er­wise had ap­peared to be re­l­at­ively un­con­tro­ver­sial picks for their re­spect­ive po­s­i­tions, des­pite an on­slaught of tough ques­tions from law­makers about the Pentagon’s planned budget for next year.

Stacy Kaper contributed to this article.
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