The White House has named its choice for the next assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, but a blockade by one senator on top military nominees means it’s unclear when he would take that job.
The Senate received the nomination of career aviator Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney to be the No. 2 Marine on Tuesday, according to a congressional website that tracks nominations.
A native of South Weymouth, Massachusetts, Mahoney has flown more than 5,000 hours, in the A-6, F-5, F-18 and F-35, according to his official bio.
When Mahoney was a colonel in charge of Marine Aircraft Group 12 in 2013, one of his sergeants said in a Marine press release about a motivational run the officer led, “I’ll go anywhere with him. He’s the person you want in the front calling the shots.”
As a general officer, Mahoney has served as the deputy commander of Marine Forces Pacific, director of strategy and plans at Headquarters Marine Corps, deputy commander of U.S. Forces Japan and commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
Now the deputy commandant for programs and resources, Mahoney is the top budget officer in the Marine Corps. He has worked to allocate the Marine Corps’ money as the service has pursued the ambitious restructuring plan called Force Design 2030.
The funding has come in large part from divestments of older platforms and systems, though Marine leaders have said the “divest to invest” approach has now reached its limit.
“In the Marine Corps I grew up in for the last 35 years, internal disagreements stay internal,” he said in a November 2022 speech to the Marine Corps Association, the Corps’ professional organization. “They stay with our professional organizations so that we can have a robust and meaningful debate.”
If he is confirmed as assistant commandant, Mahoney will pin on a fourth star and become the top deputy to the Marine commandant.
For now, though, there is no Senate-confirmed commandant.
The White House nominated Assistant Commandant Gen. Eric Smith in May for the job, but Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, unilaterally has blocked confirmation of senior military nominees in protest of a Pentagon policy that provides travel expenses and leave for troops seeking out-of-state abortions.
A spokesperson for Smith declined to comment on the nomination of Mahoney, which also would be subject to Tuberville’s hold.
Because Smith was already the No. 2 Marine, he took on the duties of the commandant upon the statutorily required retirement of his predecessor, Gen. David Berger. But Smith doesn’t have the title or some of the official trappings of the office of commandant, such as the ability to issue the commandant’s long-term planning guidance.
And Smith doesn’t have a designated second-in-command. As both the acting commandant and the assistant commandant, he is juggling two full-time jobs each meant for four-star generals.
Mahoney’s nomination provides the clearest picture yet of what the top Marine leadership team will look like if the top two generals can get confirmed. The top enlisted leader will be Sgt. Maj. Carlos Ruiz, the Corps announced in June.
Ruiz, who doesn’t require Senate confirmation to become sergeant major of the Marine Corps, will take on his new role in August.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.