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Trump appointee gives rare endorsement to successor chosen by Biden

Christine Wormuth is scheduled to appear for her confirmation as Army secretary hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
Image: Defense Undersecretary for Policy Christine Wormuth testifies at the House Armed Services Full Committee.
Defense Undersecretary for Policy Christine Wormuth testifies at the House Armed Services Full Committee in 2015.Gabriella Demczuk / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden's nominee for Army secretary is receiving an unlikely endorsement — from the Trump appointee who just left the job.

If confirmed, Christine Wormuth will be the first woman to fill the secretary of the Army job. She served as undersecretary of defense for policy, the third most senior civilian position at the Pentagon, during the Obama administration.

After the White House announced her nomination last month, she reached out to Ryan McCarthy, former President Donald Trump's secretary of the Army.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News, McCarthy said he is endorsing Wormuth for the position. “She has the deep, strategic policymaking experience” needed, he said, "and she is “uniquely suited to make the strategic decisions necessary.”

McCarthy said the two met in person for about two and a half hours to talk about the position and the challenges she would face, calling it a "very nice discussion."

Wormuth is scheduled to appear for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. She did not immediately respond to an NBC News request for comment.

While Washington and the country remain divided along partisan lines, McCarthy said his endorsement is not about politics, but about what is best for the Army.

"We need to get the wind at her back," he said. "Making her successful is in everybody's best interest."

McCarthy warned that Wormuth is facing some daunting issues as the Army's senior civilian, including budget pressure, sexual assault in the ranks, and the Army's ambitious modernization efforts. Years of relentless operational tempo and repeated deployments have stressed the force and seen alarming suicide rates among the ranks and veterans.

"Her tenure will be very consequential," McCarthy said.

Wormuth "has a very calm temperament," he added, "which you have to have in this job to deal with the pressure."