Washington, D.C.—During a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing today, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the SASC, expressed concerns over the nomination of both Sharon E. Burke and Solomon B. Watson IV.
Following a personal meeting and the committee hearing on her nomination, Inhofe expressed concern over energy issues related to Burke, the Obama Administration’s nominee to be first ever director of the Pentagon’s Office of Operational Plans and Programs. Of particular concern to Inhofe are Burke’s views on the US military’s ability to procure domestic energy for its war-fighting capabilities, and whether current law prohibits the military from using all fuel sources, including coal-to-liquid and natural-gas-to-liquid fuels.
Regarding Watson, Obama’s nominee to be General Council for the Department of the Army, Inhofe expressed reservation over the nominee’s past performance at the New York Times in protecting sensitive National Security information. Of particular concern are the number of New York Times articles that revealed classified information while Watson was the paper’s General Council and Chief Legal Officer.
On Burke’s nomination, Inhofe said:
“I commend Sharon Burke for her willingness to serve our country at this critical time, yet I believe the full Senate and the broader public should receive clear answers from her on the military’s ability to draw on our domestic resources to defend this country. For example, Ms. Burke needs to answer more fully the questions on Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Section 526 not only hampers DoD’s ability to procure fuels both at home and abroad, it also precludes the utilization of certain alternative fuels, such as coal-to-liquid and natural-gas-to-liquid fuels. In July 2008, DoD wrote me saying, ‘Section 526 requires an analysis which may never be possible’ and that it ‘potentially affects our national security.’ At a time when our troops are involved in two large-scale wars, our military must have the necessary flexibility to procure domestic and foreign fuel sources without burdensome restrictions as to its potentially untraceable carbon intensity as well as the ability to develop alternative fuels.”
On Watson’s nomination, Inhofe said:
“I appreciate that Mr. Watson said that if it were his decision to make, he would not have published the articles. I just wish it didn’t take four separate times of asking the question before he got to that answer. His responses during the hearing did not alleviate all my concerns regarding his role at the New York Times. In his role at the paper, I believe he had a responsibility to ensure that any concerns he had about revealing sensitive material was properly heard by the paper’s leadership. His failure to speak up would seem to be tacit approval for the paper’s action.”
Inhofe will seek additional clarification from both nominees.