A Republican senator threatened to block President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the next secretary of the Army over a single officer’s pay issues.
The threat over an unnamed Army major’s missing $50,000 came during an otherwise non-controversial nomination hearing for Christine Wormuth, who would be the first woman to hold the top civilian post overseeing the Army.
“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,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “I’m trying to help a major whose pay has been incorrect for over ten months now.”
The pay issue is raised at a time when civilian and uniformed Army leaders have been touting a renewed emphasis on placing “people first” by rolling out new talent management and quality of life initiatives.
Cramer’s spokesman, Jake Wilkins, told Army Times in an email that the senator is prepared to block Wormuth’s nomination over the issue, “but he is hopeful he will not have to.”
Wilkins declined to share more information about the affected soldier, including the reason why the issue arose in the first place.
The affected soldier, who is in a family of four, has been underpaid by more than $50,000, according to Cramer, who said his office has been trying to resolve the problem for two months.
Cramer expressed his frustration over the response from the Army, too.
U.S. Africa Command “couldn’t fix the soldier’s problem until he closed out his inquiry,” said Cramer. “Now, I shouldn’t have to tell you how that sounds.”
Wormuth agreed about the seriousness of the issue.
“We can’t have situations where we’re not paying our soldiers the money that they earn for ten months,” said Wormuth. “From my understanding…there isn’t a good reason why this happened.”
Cramer set a June 1 deadline for the soldier to receive his backpay, which Wormuth thinks the Army is on track to meet.
Cramer, though, won’t be convinced until the money is in the affected soldier’s bank account.
“That’s the answer that I’m looking for, and I trust you with it, but I don’t yet trust the Army. I might have eight months ago,” said the senator.
Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.