The Senate confirmed Dr. Mark Esper as the newest Secretary of the Army on Wednesday, bringing an end to a long confirmation fight for the third of President Trump’s nominees for the position.
Previous Trump’s first two picks never worked out, withdrawing in part due to controversies with business interests and LGBT activist groups, respectively. Esper’s confirmation was also held up in the Senate after Senator John McCain was dissatisfied with the Pentagon’s level of cooperation and information sharing with the Armed Services Committee following several significant tragedies across the military this year alone.
Esper, a former Raytheon lobbyist, also faced bipartisan criticism for his close ties to the nation’s third-largest defense contractor. Esper spent the last several years working for Raytheon, reportedly drawing a $1.5 million salary for his efforts. Senator John McCain said his nomination would be the last approved due to his defense industry background.
I would be remiss if I did not reiterate my concerns about the number of nominees from defense industry filling out the leadership ranks at the Department of Defense,” McCain said during Esper’s confirmation hearing. “My reservations grew out of early consultations I had with the [Trump] administration about potential nominees, including yours and a handful of others. It was then that I decided I couldn’t support further nominees with that background.”
But in addition to his work in the defense industry, Esper comes with broad experience in the Army. A graduate of West Point, he served as an infantry officer and earned his Combat Infantryman Badge during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. After commanding a rifle company in Europe, Esper attended Harvard’s JFK School of Government. He is also the recipient of the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership award, given to junior officers who best exemplify the ideals of duty, honor, and country.
After transferring to the Virginia National Guard, Esper retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. Esper has experience with Congress as well, serving as a professional staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. He was the policy director for the House Armed Services Committee, as well as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy prior to beginning his career in the defense industry.