(Source : Defense News – Joe Gould and Leo Shane III ) – Esper confirmed as new defense secretary, ending Pentagon leadership uncertainty
The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved Mark Esper to be the country’s 27th defense secretary, ending a wait of more than 200 days for a permanent Pentagon leader.
Esper’s relatively drama-free confirmation vote — 90-8 — stood in contrast to the seven months of uncertainty in the highest levels of the military’s leadership.
After former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was forced out of his post early on the first day of 2019, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan helmed the department until he suddenly withdrew from consideration for the full-time job in June amid reports of domestic violence among his family members.
Esper, who until then had served as Army secretary for since late 2017, bounced between that job and the acting defense secretary job over the last five weeks. Lawmakers and military officials expressed concerns over the temporary, unclear leadership in recent months, especially as other top military posts were vacated.
Tuesday’s vote ends the longest period the Defense Department has gone without a permanent, confirmed leader since it became a Cabinet-level agency.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said ahead of the vote Tuesday that Esper is “beyond qualified” for the top military job.
“His record of public service is beyond impressive,” McConnell said. “His commitment to serving our service members is beyond obvious. And the need for a Senate-confirmed secretary of defense is beyond urgent.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., offered similar praise.
“It’s not very often we have someone that is enthusiastically supported by Republicans, by Democrats, and he is obviously the right person,” he said. “He has the trust of our president, the trust of our military, the trust of Congress and the country to keep our nation safe.”
Esper, a West Point graduate and former Army lieutenant colonel, was vice president of government relations for Raytheon — the third-largest defense contractor in the United States — for seven years before becoming Army secretary. His most notable work leading the Army included a shake-up of the service’s acquisitions portfolio.
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