By all accounts, the new secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth, was supposed to have a smooth, eventless confirmation.
That was until late Wednesday evening, when the Senate unanimously confirmed her and then, two hours later, reversed her confirmation. The body then unanimously confirmed her again on Thursday morning.
The snag? Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., held true to his promise to hold up Wormuth’s nomination until an Army major’s pay issues were fixed.
“I have a soldier I know who has been over in Africa for 10 months and not receiving his appropriate pay for active duty,” Cramer told reporters Thursday afternoon.
The affected soldier, who is in a family of four, has been underpaid by more than $50,000, according to Cramer.
“It was never about [Wormuth],” he added. “It’s about the Army and this very archaic [human resources] system that doesn’t pay people.”
Cramer first raised the issue in Wormuth’s confirmation hearing, as Army Times previously reported.
“When a problem has to be solved by a congressional inquiry that has to go all the way to the senator…threatening to hold a nominee’s confirmation up, that’s bad,” Cramer said during the May 13 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “I’m trying to help a major whose pay has been incorrect for over ten months now.”
At the time, the senator was “hopeful” he would not have to block Wormuth’s historic nomination, according to Jake Wilkins, his communications director.
Cramer said he lifted his hold on Wormuth’s nomination this morning, after Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks “assured” him that the Army would fix the remainder of the officer’s pay.
Cramer had previously set a June 1 deadline for the soldier to receive his backpay. During her confirmation hearing, Wormuth agreed about the seriousness of the pay issue.
“We can’t have situations where we’re not paying our soldiers the money that they earn for ten months,” Wormuth said at the time.
“From my understanding,” she added, “there isn’t a good reason why this [pay issue] happened.”
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.