White House officials plan to withdraw the nomination of a controversial Pentagon nominee and appoint her to a key Veterans Affairs leadership post instead, according to administration sources.
The decision to give up on Brenda Sue Fulton’s nomination to be the assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs and instead move her into a job that does not require Senate confirmation ends more than a year of fighting over her potential role in the Pentagon.
Fulton is now expected to serve as the VA assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs, replacing Kayla Williams, who will step down from the post next week.
VA officials said that no official replacement for Williams has been announced. White House officials did not offer a response to questions about the nomination change.
Fulton declined comment on the new role. She is an Army veteran and a 1980 graduate of West Point, one of the first female graduates from the school.
She was also a key figure in the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2011 and was the first openly gay member of the West Point Board of Visitors. Since 2018, Fulton has served in New Jersey as chief administrator of the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission.
President Joe Biden nominated her in April 2021 to serve as assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, which oversees a host of personnel issues within the Pentagon. But that nomination has been stalled for months over her past comments criticizing Republican policies and lawmakers.
Those include Twitter posts calling the Republican party “racist” and criticizing evangelical Christians for “twisted” policy positions.
During a Senate Armed Services Confirmation hearing last October, Fulton apologized for the posts, saying that it was “wrong to tarnish an entire group of people” for the actions of a few. Still, multiple Republican senators said they would do everything they could to block her nomination.
Since then, her nomination has not advanced to the Senate floor for a full chamber vote.
The VA assistant secretary post will not require Senate confirmation. The Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs oversees about 100 employees, dealing with communication and outreach efforts for the department’s programs.
Williams has served in the role since Biden’s inauguration in January 2021. In a statement Tuesday, VA Secretary Denis McDonough praised her tenure at the department and said she was departing to spend more time with her family.
Fulton’s appointment to the job is expected to be officially announced next week. White House officials have not publicly said what nominee may replace her for the Pentagon personnel role.
Several other key leadership posts at VA are awaiting Senate confirmation votes. The department’s under secretary for health post has been without a Senate-confirmed candidate for the last five years, while the under secretary for benefits post has been without one for the last 15 months.
Nominees for both of those roles are pending before the Senate.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.
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