Tester Takes to the Senate Floor to Push for Confirmation of Defense Department Nominees

Senator stresses importance of confirming defense nominees for national security

In his continued effort to protect American national security and support American troops defending democracy across the globe, U.S. Senator Jon Tester recently took to the Senate floor to push for the confirmation of Department of Defense (DOD) nominees Rheanne Wirkkala for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs and Milancy Harris for Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Security and Intelligence. Tester emphasized that letting partisan politics get in the way of confirming qualified Defense leaders is a threat to our national security.

“Last month, I had the opportunity to visit American troops stationed in Eastern Europe, who are on the front lines defending our European Allies against Russian aggression,” Tester said. “These brave servicemembers are the tip of the spear in protecting our democracy and our national security. It is our responsibility to ensure our troops have the support they need to protect our country and our European Allies against foreign adversaries like Russia. This starts with confirming capable leaders like the nominees we have before us today.”

After Tester’s remarks, Rheanne Wirkkala was confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs. Wirkkala has years of defense and legislative experience having served at the Defense Intelligence Agency, as a senior staffer on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and as a special assistant to the Secretary of Defense.

Milancy Harris, nominee to be Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Security and Intelligence, has yet to be confirmed and is currently serving as the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Irregular Warfare and Counter Terrorism.

Last month, Tester, in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, spent a week meeting with American troops stationed across Europe and conducting in-depth, on-the-ground oversight of the Department of Defense in the region. Chairman Tester also held official discussions and briefings with U.S. and European allies on challenges presented by Russian aggression in Ukraine, the influx of Ukrainian refugees to the region, and other security and economic concerns. 

Tester took the gavel of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in early 2021. The Subcommittee is responsible for providing more than $720 billion annually to the Department of Defense and related agencies. This is more than 95 percent of the military’s yearly budget, and includes matters ranging from pay and benefits for millions of service members and civilians to the development of advanced technologies and next-generation weapons. The Subcommittee also oversees funding for nearly all major U.S. intelligence agencies.