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Mark Esper confirmed as Secretary of Defense

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)
July 23, 2019

The Senate has voted to confirm former Secretary of the Army Mark Esper as Secretary of Defense, making him the first confirmed Secretary of Defense since Jim Mattis’ departure in December.

A 90-8 vote confirmed Esper early Tuesday afternoon, just a week after his nomination, and a little more than a month after he began serving as acting Secretary of Defense, The Wall Street Journal reported.

A hearing was held July 16, one day after the Senate received President Trump’s formal nomination of Esper, who was confirmed as Army Secretary in November 2017.

Esper, a former Raytheon Co. executive and lobbyist, is also a former West Point graduate and veteran of the Army and National Guard.

Esper graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1986 and went on to serve more than a decade as an active duty Army Ranger, and served in 1990-1991 in the Gulf War. He headed an airborne rifle company while in Europe, and served another decade as a reservist in the Virginia and District of Columbia National Guard and Army Reserve.

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer had temporarily taken over the role as acting Secretary of Defense last week while Esper’s nomination was pending.

Former acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan withdrew his nomination on June 18 following an FBI probe that was delaying his confirmation process.

The probe was reportedly centered on a 2010 domestic violence incident involving Shanahan and his wife at the time, Kimberley, in which both claimed the other had punched them. Shanahan maintains he “never laid a hand on” his former wife, although she maintains her claims.

Mattis submitted a letter of resignation to Trump late last year, in 2018. Trump confirmed the news in a tweet on Dec. 20, 2018, confirming that Mattis was “retiring, with distinction.”

Mattis’ letter, which cited differences of opinion with Trump, stated that he vowed to remain in the role until Feb. 28, 2019, to “allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated.”

However, within days, Trump announced that then-Deputy Defense Secretary Shanahan would take over as acting defense secretary as of Jan. 1, pushing Mattis out nearly two months ahead of his intended departure date.

Trump was reportedly angered by Mattis’ resignation letter and the media coverage of it in the following days, which led to the escalation of Mattis’ replacement.