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Mark Esper is the new acting Defense Secretary. Here is what you need to know about him.

Then-Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark Esper, talks to 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command Soldiers at the Landstuhl Satellite Facility, Germany, on Sept. 24, 2018. (Pfc. Charles Thorman/U.S. Army)

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan would be withdrawing from the confirmation process for defense secretary.

In his place, Trump said that he would be appointing Mark Esper, who had previously been serving as Secretary of the Army.

“I thank Pat for his outstanding service and will be naming Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, to be the new Acting Secretary of Defense,” wrote Trump on Twitter. “I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job.”

Trump made the announcement about an hour after USA TODAY published a story about an FBI investigation into a violent fight in 2010 between Shanahan and his then-wife.

Here are five things to know about Mark Esper:

The Senate confirmed him as Secretary of the Army last year

The Senate confirmed Esper as Secretary of the Army on November 15, 2017 on an 89-6 vote.

During his confirmation hearings, Esper explained that his priorities would be “Readiness – ensuring the Total Army is prepared to fight across the full spectrum of conflict” and “Modernization – building capacity and capabilities in the longer term.”

“If confirmed, I will approach my duties with the values and behaviors proven to maximize the effectiveness of any team: act with integrity; collaborate broadly; treat others with respect; encourage innovation, critical thinking and straight talk; empower people; and hold leaders accountable, Esper continued. “These principles must be lived, promoted, and upheld day-in and day-out by leaders at every level.

He was the head Raytheon lobbyist

Before his nomination as Secretary of the Army, Esper served as Vice President of Government Relations at Raytheon, a defense contractor.

The late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., expressed some reservations about this, noting in his opening statement during Esper’s confirmation hearing that:

“Dr. Esper, I would be remiss if I did not reiterate my concerns about the number of nominees from the defense industry filling out the leadership ranks at the Department of Defense. I want to be clear that my reservations grew out of early consultations I had with the administration about potential nominations, including yours and a handful of others that were yet to be nominated.”

Esper has recused himself from any matters relating to Raytheon. The Hill reported in August 2017 that he made $1.5 million in his last year with Raytheon, and his deferred compensation plan was due to pay out five years after he left Raytheon.

Before working for Raytheon, Esper worked for the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group, as well as the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, the Heritage Foundation, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

He worked on Capitol Hill

Esper has been in politics for some time. He’s worked under Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the House Armed Services Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate Government Affairs Committee (now Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs). Esper also worked for Senator Chuck Hagel, who served as President Barack Obama’s Defense Secretary.

He holds a doctorate

Esper holds a doctorate in public policy from George Washington University, where he completed his dissertation in 2008 titled “The role of Congress in the development of the United States’ strategic nuclear forces, 1947–1968.” Esper completed a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard in 1995. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1986.

He is a veteran

After finishing his time at the U.S. Military Academy, Esper was commissioned into the Infantry and served in the Regular Army, where he saw action in Operation Desert Shield with the 101st Airborne Division. He retired from the military in 2007 after commanding an airborne company in Europe and serving in the National Guard and Army Reserve.

He’s a decorated soldier, too. According to his Secretary of the Army biography, he’s been awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal – Saudi Arabia, the Combat Infantryman Badge, and other decorations.

Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook


© 2019 USA Today

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