IF CONFIRMED | An Insider’s View of the National Security Confirmation Process

IF CONFIRMED by Arnold L Punaro
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Countless National Security Leaders Agree: No One Knows This Process Like Arnold Punaro.

Drawing on nearly 50 years of experience with the Senate confirmation process, Punaro has written this one-of-a-kind book chronicling the Senate’s constitutional advice and consent role. This book serves as a reference guide for both military and civilian national security nominees who find themselves about to face the confirmation gauntlet. Readers will walk away with a better understanding of how the U.S. government really functions and how to be successful should they find themselves on the opposite side of the Senate dais.

Punaro offers unique insights into the good, the bad, and the ugly about the process and how it has changed over time. He proposes innovative and practical solutions to fix this increasingly dysfunctional system. Ensuring that America gets the best people into these critical positions of power is fundamental to our national security and our nation’s success now and in the future.


Arnold L. Punaro is a retired Major General (USMC), who spent 24 years working in the U.S. Senate (1973-1997), including 14 years as the Staff Director of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He has been a confirmation advisor to the Senate, Department of Defense, and other Executive Branch agencies since 1997. He has been involved with myriad high-level nominations including 12 Secretaries of Defense, 12 Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairmen, over 40 Service Chiefs, and more than 2,000 civilian officials. Currently CEO of The Punaro Group, he is a top industry executive and continues to serve on numerous boards and commissions focused on national security.


“The selection and preparation of nominees for top positions at DOD is a mixture of science and art. It is also a mysterious process, even for Beltway insiders—until now. Arnold Punaro always tackles topics in military affairs that are under-examined. In this case, he covers subjects that literally no one in the world knows more about: the processes of nominating, confirming, and appointing top brass at the Pentagon. These are important topics, considering that every American has an intrinsic interest in leadership selection outcomes at the nation’s largest, most complicated, and by many measures, most important agency.” Dr. Matthew Auer, Dean and Arch Professor of Public and International Affairs, School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia.

“With If Confirmed, General Punaro masterfully distills the wisdom and insights accumulated from a career intimately involved in the confirmation of thousands of civilian and military leaders. I have seen General Punaro’s candor save-the-day repeatedly over the years. Whether for nominees, policy enthusiasts, or public servants, this book is an essential primer on the history and inner workings of a critical component of American governance.” The Honorable Barbara Barrett, Former Secretary of the Air Force; Former Ambassador to Finland.

“There is literally no one alive better able to comment on the nomination and confirmation process in both the Executive and Legislative Branches for military and civilian nominees who must pass through the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate floor. I also served as the staff director of the Armed Services Committee, and I relied on Arnold’s expertise and advice to help me navigate the complicated and, at times, very difficult process of guiding or stopping nominees from confirmation. He is simply the master. None better, in my opinion. Arnold has a command of the history, back door deals, trials, and process rules that no one else can claim. This is a must-read book for those wishing to be confirmed and those trying to help them achieve that goal.” John Bonsell, Former Staff Director of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The Senate’s confirmation power is found in a brief clause of the Constitution’s Article One. In today’s Washington, the process now requires a complex legal and political navigation for even the most qualified candidates nominated to serve. No guide is more experienced or knowledgeable than Arnold Punaro, and If Confirmed is must reading for citizens and candidates wanting to understand what exactly is ‘advise and consent.’” The Honorable Rudy De Leon, Senior Fellow of National Security & International Policy, Center for American Progress; Former Deputy Secretary of Defense; Former Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Former Under Secretary of the Air Force; Former Staff Director of the House Armed Services Committee.

“There is no one who has a better understanding of the Senate confirmation process than Arnold Punaro. He has assisted countless senior officials in navigating the process. I was fortunate to be one of the individuals he coached, mentored, and prepared for Senate confirmation hearings. I found his counsel to be “pure gold.” Those interested in the process will find this book informative. For those willing to serve in a confirmed position and preparing for a hearing, this book demystifies the process and provides invaluable insight. It reflects Arnold’s decades of experience, his deep understanding of the process and the Senate, and his gift for clarity.” General Joe Dunford, USMC (Ret); Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Former Commandant of the Marine Corps.

“Leave it to Washington’s most trusted expert to identify a significant gap in knowledge and so masterfully provide vital insight for those seeking to lead federal agencies at the commander-in-chief’s request. There is no better or more respected practitioner with such unparalleled views deep from the policy foxholes of Washington D.C. on the intricacies of the Senate confirmation process than the intrepid Arnold Punaro. A trusted colleague to all, Arnold’s shared wisdom built on a 40-year proficiency of intimately shepherding novices through the good, bad, and the ugly of the confirmation process is the key that will unlock the doors to many futures in the next generation.”Mackenzie Eaglen, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute.

“Arnold Punaro’s nearly 50 years of experience and expertise in this arena is unmatched. Navigating the Senate confirmation process can be daunting without the right support. Thanks to Arnold and his team, I was well prepared for my own hearings to become secretary of the Army and secretary of defense. More importantly, Arnold has always worked in a bipartisan fashion with senior military and civilian nominees alike to do what’s best for our country. I can think of no better person to write this much-needed book.” The Honorable Dr. Mark Esper, Former Secretary of Defense; Former Secretary of the Army.

“The confirmation process has become torturous. Arnold Punaro has participated in this from every possible direction. If Confirmed is valuable, either for surviving the current process or as a guide to improve it going forward.” The Honorable John J. Hamre, Ph.D.,President, CEO and Langone Chair in American Leadership ofCenter for Strategic and International Studies; Former Deputy Secretary of Defense; Former Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller.

“If you are interested in understanding, guiding others in navigating, or are participating yourself as a nominee in the oft-bewildering, sometimes maddening, but absolutely critical Senate confirmation process for defense officials, there is absolutely no individual with more experience, knowledge, insights, or field craft regarding every part of the process than Arnold Punaro. You want him in your foxhole and this fine book puts him there with you. Arnold helped me in my own nomination process and then in successfully winning confirmation of countless nominees to Department of Defense positions thereafter, including no shortage of politically fraught and procedurally challenging instances. He is a master.” The Honorable Stephen Hedger, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs; Former Special Assistant to the President for Senate Affairs.

“I can’t think of anyone better than Washington insider Arnold Punaro to outline the do’s, the don’t’s as well as the good, bad and ugly of the confirmation process. From his time in the Senate to his time in the military to his time as an advisor helping thousands of nominees, Punaro knows the process from the inside out. If Confirmed offers a must-read history and playbook for anyone wishing to serve at the highest levels of government.” The Honorable Debbie Lee James, Former Secretary of the Air Force; Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs; Former President of Technical and Engineering Sector, SAIC.

If Confirmed is an unprecedented, one-of-a-kind guide to navigate the Senate confirmation process, written by a genuine master of that process. I have been through three Senate confirmations, and there is no better coach than General Arnold Punaro. Arnold knows the issues, the process, the personalities who run the process, and the minefields to avoid. When necessary, Arnold is not afraid to cut a presidential nominee down to size in preparation for cross-examination by a United States senator. I have been ‘murdered’ by Arnold more than once and lived to talk about the experience. Above all, Arnold is the consummate Washington insider, who, year after year, knows everything and everybody in the close-knit national security community.” The Honorable Jeh Johnson, Former Secretary of Homeland Security; Former Department of Defense General Counsel; Former General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force.

“I have known and served with the author since 1979 and know of no one who has so willingly and consistently given freely of his time and effort to making our national security organizations better. His first two books are “must read and retain” efforts, and this one is no different. In fact, because it touches on the thousands of candidates for public office who require Senate confirmation, this book is, at once, an expert education of one of the most important rites of passage to government positions, and it also reveals the intensely personal pressures and results of the confirmation process itself. There have been those who turned down the opportunity for a trial run by the author and his committee of experts. Most have lived to regret that decision. The overwhelming majority of those who subjected themselves to this advanced course of confirmation preparation, sometimes more than once, were successful in being confirmed. Put this book on your bookshelf for future use, either for yourself or perhaps for someone you know who has been nominated to an office that requires U.S. Senate confirmation.” General James L. Jones, USMC (Ret); Former U.S. National Security Advisor; 32nd Commandant of the Marine Corps; Former Commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

“Arnold Punaro’s experience in the layered world of Senate confirmations is singular, spanning multiple administrations. A trusted advisor to generations of Department of Defense leaders, he has helped countless officials navigate the unpredictable politics and sometimes difficult process of getting through the U.S. Senate. This is the book that Arnold had to write, as there is no equal to the experience, perspective, and insight that he brings to this issue.”Louis Lauter, Former Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs.

“In If Confirmed, Arnold Punaro gives an informed insider’s account of the history of the Senate confirmation process for nominees in the national security world, as well as providing a guide for current nominees and suggestions on how to make the system work more effectively. We need our most dedicated and talented people to serve in these important Senate-confirmed positions, and if our confirmation system continues to become more sclerotic and less productive, it will harm our ability to attract and retain the right people for these demanding jobs. If Confirmed is a comprehensive look at a topic that is as important as it is complex.”The Honorable General James N. Mattis, USMC (Ret); Former Secretary of Defense; Former Commander of U.S. Central Command.

“Every nominee, and potential nominee, needs to read and heed Arnold Punaro’s sage advice. His deep and diverse career of service at the very highest levels of the Senate and the Pentagon brings him unparalleled insight and an unmatched understanding of the often uncertain and politically charged confirmation journey. Arnold’s prudent counsel has singularly ensured countless nominees successfully navigated their Senate confirmation with ease—ensuring needed continuity of key national security posts across administrations and party lines.”Laura McAleer, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Senate Affairs; Former National Security Advisor at the U.S. Senate; Associate Vice President, Federal & Washington Relations at the University of Notre Dame.

“Arnold Punaro is unparalleled in his knowledge of the Senate confirmation process and his ability to prepare a political or uniformed nominee to testify in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee.” The Honorable Ryan D. McCarthy, Former Secretary of the Army; Former Under Secretary of the Army.

If Confirmed provides a rare glimpse behind the curtain into a process with far-reaching national security implications. Any prospective nominee would be well-served by examining Arnold Punaro’s lessons learned and strategies for navigating Senate confirmations. Demystifying pathways into government service, especially with respect to the Senate confirmation process, will help ensure that our nation has qualified candidates prepared to serve at the highest levels.” Jamie Jones Miller, CEO and Dean, Northeastern University Arlington Campus; former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs.

“A few times in your life, you find the expert in an area where only a very few exist. Arnold Punaro spent a greater part of his career helping others, including myself, get confirmed by the United States Senate for all matters regarding our national security. Beforehand, he was the lead in determining who would “be anointed” by the Senate Armed Services Committee for literally every Senate-confirmed position in the Department of Defense. Arnold is a culmination of experience and knowledge in this daunting process. His work to bring in the very best to serve our country continues today. Anyone going through it, either as a nominee or one who works to get highly qualified people into these critical government positions, will serve themselves well to read this book.” The Honorable Jim Morhard, Former Deputy NASA Administrator; Former Deputy Sergeant at Arms of the United States Senate; Former Staff Director, Senate Appropriations Committee.

“I am one of the many who benefited from Arnold Punaro’s preparation for a confirmation hearing. In my case, to be secretary of Veterans Affairs. His long history with and deep knowledge of the process was evident. This book, If Confirmed, is a wonderful contribution to those who are called upon to serve our country. It is valuable in context, expectation setting, and for framing one’s thoughts in responding to the many stakeholders in the nomination and confirmation process. Arnold Punaro is singularly qualified to bring all aspects of the process together, which he does in this readable and eminently useful book. It is a “must read” for any embarking on the journey of service in the Executive Branch.” The Honorable James B. Peake, M.D. Lieutenant General, USA (Ret.); Senior Vice President, CGI Federal; former Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

“The ultimate guide on the confirmation process from the ultimate guide through it! Arnold Punaro brings unmatched experience, expertise, and insights to this subject. I benefited from his wisdom and guidance in preparing for four Senate confirmations (as well as several high-stakes hearings), and this book will be invaluable to any nominee for high office or any individual helping a nominee navigate the confirmation process.” The Honorable General David Petraeus, U.S. Army (Ret.); former Commander of the Surge in Iraq, U.S. Central Command, and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan; Former Director of the CIA; Co-author (with Andrew Roberts) of Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine.

“Arnold Punaro has amassed a lifetime of wisdom in the process of Senate confirmation. With well over a half-century of service to our nation, he shares that wisdom in If Confirmed. This book is indispensable for anyone set to embark on that process or interested in this critical function of the American government.” The Honorable Patrick Shanahan, Former Deputy Secretary of Defense.

“The Senate confirmation process has become more contentious over time, and yet, we need capable leaders who can enter public service and take on the challenging roles facing our nation. There is no more qualified servant to the nation than Arnold Punaro in preparing leaders for this grueling process. Punaro has the experience, expertise, and reputation for developing nominees to engage this process with legitimacy and a focus on the benefits they will contribute to the country. Punaro’s book will become THE source for preparing and fulfilling the responsibilities of this important and increasingly difficult process.”Dr. David M. Van Slyke, Dean and Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business-Government Policy, The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University.

“General Punaro has shepherded my confirmations from assistant secretary to the cabinet. In my first tour at the Pentagon, I put the nomination of Robert Gates in his safe hands. No one knows the history and traditions of the Senate nor has better relationships on both sides of the aisle than Arnold Punaro. He is a patriot and a Washington institution. The trust he has from conservatives and liberals harkens back to a better, more civil time in the nation’s capital. Wish there were more like him.” The Honorable Robert Wilkie, Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Former Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs.

“I have had the pleasure of knowing Arnold since the early 1970s and sat with him on the ‘murder board’ process. In addition to a unique commitment to wanting to make the DOD and government work better, what sets Arnold apart in my mind are his remarkable instincts to understand relevant issues and shape them to reach better outcomes. When he brings these talents to help the extremely capable people nominated for senior positions in the government improve their prospects for confirmation in the contentious atmosphere, such nominations are too often considered, and the country benefits.” The Honorable Kim Wincup, Former Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs; Former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition; Former Staff Director of the House Armed Services Committee.