Senate confirms Hicks as DoD’s No. 2

How Kathleen Hicks will approach nukes, shipbuilding and the budget

WASHINGTON ― The Senate confirmed Kathleen Hicks as deputy defense secretary on Monday evening, making her the first woman to be confirmed by the Senate to the position Senate.

Hicks, who led President Joe Biden’s transition team at the Pentagon, is a deputy undersecretary of defense official under the Obama administration. More recently, she led international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved Hicks on Feb. 4 and on Monday confirmed her by unanimous consent.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s military background has fueled concerns about civilian control of the military eroding further. However, Austin stressed during his confirmation hearing he would be relying heavily on civilians and said Hicks will have a major role in policy decisions.

Because Austin served on the board of Raytheon Technologies and agreed to recuse himself from decisions concerning the company, decisions involving the firm will fall to Hicks.

That includes two key nuclear capabilities: the intercontinental ballistic missile replacement program, known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, as well as the Long Range Standoff Weapon, or LRSO, a nuclear cruise missile.

During her confirmation hearing, Hicks offered support for nuclear modernization and the nuclear triad. She also said she would defer to Austin and Biden on matters of nuclear policy.

Hicks was noncommittal about defense budget cuts and say she thinks the budget can be trimmed without sacrificing national security. The comments come as the Biden administration is expected to propose flat defense spending.

Hicks, whose office would review deals that involve national security issues, told lawmakers she was concerned by consolidation in the defense industrial base, and that competition is needed to maintain an edge over China and Russia.

“Extreme consolidation does create challenges for innovation,” she said.

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Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.

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