Comptroller, intel nominees cruise through hearing amidst supply chain questions

WASHINGTON — Two top Defense Department nominees cruised through a Tuesday confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, setting the stage for a quick path towards the Pentagon.

Ronald Moultrie, the nominee for undersecretary for intelligence and security, and Mike McCord, who is seeking a second term as undersecretary-comptroller, faced little opposition during the hearing. Both Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., the top Republican on the committee, and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Ia., said they would support the nominees, while Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., expressed support for McCord.

That support likely locks the nominees in for an easy path forward, at a time when SASC chairman Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, has said his focus is on getting a wave of nominees installed in the department.

For Moultrie, a large number of questions focused on cyber security, particularly in light of the hack of a major U.S. oil pipeline over the weekend. Moultire acknowledged concerns about defending the defense industrial supply chain from future digital attacks, calling it “inherently vulnerable” and warning that adversaries, particularly China, “understand” the industrial base and know how to target it.

To counter that, Moultrie said, a push towards greater communication between the government and industry on vulnerabilities and risks is needed.

“I think we have to ensure that we continue to identify what our vulnerabilities are in those key areas, in those key industries, in those key organizations,” Moultire said in response to one question about supply chain dangers. “We have to make them aware, Senator, of what the challenges really are and what the threat actually is. And that means we have to — I talked about public private partnerships — to be able to go out and talk to them, make sure that they understand this. And if confirmed I would work vigorously to ensure that we’re doing all we can to support the mitigation of risks in our supply chain as it exists today.”

With McCord, questions largely centered on two issues — the Pentagon’s ongoing audit, and whether he supports annual defense budget growth of 3-5 percent, a requirement defense officials first claimed during the Trump administration.

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