Former lobbyist and Army Secretary Mark Esper has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the next secretary of defense.
What’s the background?
In December, Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned in protest after President Donald Trump announced that he planned an abrupt withdrawal of the U.S. troops in Syria. In his resignation letter, Mattis talked about “treating allies with respect” and “being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors.”
Despite his resignation letter, Mattis initially planned to stay in his role until February, but Trump fired him on Dec. 23.
Mattis was initially replaced by Deputy Secretary Patrick Shanahan — who in addition to being acting defense secretary was nominated for that position on a permanent basis. However, on June 18 Trump announced that Shanahan was withdrawing his nomination “so that he can devote more time to his family.”
Shanahan said that he decided the confirmation hearings “would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family’s life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal.”
With Shanahan’s nomination withdrawn, Trump announced that he was moving Esper from being secretary of the Army to acting secretary of defense.
While the Senate was voting on Esper during the past week, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer has been acting defense secretary.
What do we know about Esper?
Esper has been secretary of the Army since Nov. 20, 2017. He also served as national security adviser for former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) when Frist was Senate Majority Leader.
He also worked as a lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon. However, with the notable exception of presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), most senators did not seem troubled by the prospect of confirming a former defense lobbyist to this position. He was confirmed by a vote of 90 to 8.