Trump To Nominate Mark Esper For Defense Secretary

Just days after being named the next Acting Secretary of Defense, the President is appointing Mark Esper to be full Secretary of Defense.

Just days after elevating him from Secretary of the Army to Acting Secretary of Defense after the sudden decision by Patrick Shanahan to withdraw his name from contention as Defense Secretary and leave the Pentagon, President Trump has decided to formally nominate Mark Esper to be the next Secretary of Defense:

WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to nominate Mark T. Esper, the secretary of the Army and former West Point classmate of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to be the next defense secretary, administration officials said on Friday.

They said that Mr. Trump would send the nomination to lawmakers on Capitol Hill in the next few days. If confirmed, Mr. Esper, an Army infantryman who fought in the gulf war before becoming a lobbyist for Raytheon, would succeed Jim Mattis, who resigned in December during a dispute over pulling American troops out of Syria.

Mr. Esper is set to become acting defense secretary on Sunday, following the abrupt resignation of Patrick M. Shanahan, who also was nominated by Mr. Trump to the top Pentagon job. Mr. Shanahan withdrew on Tuesday amid news reports about his 2011 divorce.

The president also plans to nominate Ryan McCarthy, the under secretary of the Army and a former Army ranger, to succeed Mr. Esper, the officials said.

The nominations come as Mr. Esper and the Pentagon are already in the throes of an international crisis over Iran’s downing of an unmanned American drone Thursday morning. On Thursday night, Mr. Trump called of planned airstrikes on Iranian radar and missile sites; the president tweeted on Friday that he called off the strikes because of chances of casualties.

Mr. Esper, along with Mr. Shanahan, was at the White House on Thursday for meetings with Mr. Trump over how to respond. Iran asserts that the American drone was in Iranian airspace, a charge that the United States Central Command denies.

In my post about Shanahan’s withdrawal, I noted Esper’s long resume:

Shanahan’s replacement as Acting Defense Secretary will be Mark Esper, who has been serving as Secretary of the Army since November 2017. Prior to that time, Esper, a West Point graduate, served in the U.S. Army, specifically in the 101st Airborne Divisionwhere he saw combat during the Persian Gulf War and was part of that division’s famous “left hook” attack on the Iraqi Army that led to the end of the war. For his service during the war, Esper was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and various other service medals. After the war, he returned to the United States and remained on active duty until the end of the 1990s.

After leaving the military, Esper served as Chief of Staff at the Heritage Foundation from 1996 to 1998 before moving on to a position on Capitol Hill where he served as a staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Senate Government Affairs Committee, and the House Armed Services Committee. He also served as an aide to Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel. During the first term of President George W. Bush, he served as Deputy Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy. After that he returned to Capitol Hill where he served as National Security Adviser to Senator Bill Frist, who was Senate Majority Leader at the time. In addition to all of this, Esper served in various positions in the private sector during the Obama Administration before being named as President Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Army in 2017. It’s unclear of Esper will ultimately be named as Trump’s pick as Secretary of Defense, but he certainly appears to have the resume for the position.

Given the fact that we appear to be in the middle of a real international crisis in the Persian Gulf, having a permanent presence at the head of the Defense Department rather than just an Acting Secretary is a good thing. Of course, it’s worth noting that Esper is the third Defense Secretary that Trump has had in just his first two-and-a-half years in office, which is somewhat unusual for a position where past Presidents have valued stability over the chaos that occurs when there have been several persons in what is arguably the most important position in the Cabinet with the possible exception of the Secretary of State.

Assuming there are no skeletons in Esper’s closet, and one assumes that would have been demonstrated when he was under consideration for previous positions such as Secretary of the Army, then he will of course be easily confirmed by the Republican Senate. Despite that, he’ll still need to undergo a new background check so it could be several months at least before the Senate gets a chance to vote on his nomination.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Military Affairs, National Security, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Kathy says:

    “Secretary?” Not “Acting Secretary?”

    What gives?

  2. CSK says:

    @Kathy: Indeed. Trump is on the record as saying he prefers having acting secretaries because they don’t need to be confirmed.

  3. Kathy says:


    Maybe President Bolton explained to him they can’t go to glorious war without a functioning “Secretary” in the Pentagon.

  4. wr says:

    And revelation of wife-beating, sexual harassment, embezzlement, fraud, theft or drunk driving in five…four…three…two…

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Assuming there are no skeletons in Esper’s closet, and one assumes that would have been demonstrated when he was under consideration for previous positions such as Secretary of the Army,

    You do realize Doug, that a lot of people said the same thing about Patrick Shanahan? At this point I think it would be safer to assume that he has a history of domestic violence, or shady Russian money laundering deals, or war crimes, or…..

    ETA besides all of which, how do we even know he passed his first background check?

  6. Ryszard Ewiak says:

    King Solomon stated: “The king’s heart is in Yahweh’s hand like the watercourses. He turns it wherever he desires.” (Proverbs 21:1, WEB) For now Heaven is holding back the wind of the Third World War. This war, however, is maturing and will be on a very large scale. Moses has already written: “And ships from the direction of Kittim [US Navy], and will afflict Asshur [Russia] and will afflict Eber [remaining enemies, including Iran and China].” (Numbers 24:24a) It will be suicidal mission. This armada will not return home. (Numbers 24:24b)

    This time it will be a world war not only by name. The “great sword” will also be used. (Revelation 6:4) Jesus characterized him in this way: “Terrors [φοβητρα] both [τε] and [και] unusual phenomena [σημεια – unusual occurrences, transcending the common course of nature] from [απ] sky [ουρανου] powerful [μεγαλα] will be [εσται].” (Luke 21:11)
    Some ancient manuscripts contain the words “and frosts” [και χειμωνες].
    The Aramaic Peshitta: “and will be great frosts” [וסתוא רורבא נהוון]. We call this today “nuclear winter”.
    In Mark 13:8 there are also words of Jesus: “and disorders” [και ταραχαι] (in the sense of confusion and chaos).
    The Aramaic Peshitta: “and confusion” [ושגושיא] (on the state of public order).
    There will be also significant tremors, food shortages and epidemics along the length and breadth of the regions as a result of using this weapon.

    Jesus presented here a complete picture of the consequences of the global nuclear war. Many try to adapt this detailed picture to the nineteenth or almost the entire twentieth century. Jesus announced: “For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am’; and ‘The appointed time has approached’. Do not follow them.” (Luke 21:8) “For many will come in the name of me, saying: ‘I am the anointed’; and will mislead many.” (Matthew 24:5) Χριστός – משיח, in this context: “anointed”.

    But all this, however, could not last more than 100 years! All this was to accompany only this war. Jesus stated: “All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” (Matthew 24:7, 8)

  7. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Ryszard Ewiak: I take it that you’re auditioning to be the next Hal Lindsay? The office you were looking for in on an entirely different floor of a different building.

  8. Mister Bluster says:

    “For many will come in the name of me, saying: ‘I am the anointed’; and will mislead many.”

    I get it. Jesus is telling us to ignore Trump because he lies all the time.

  9. Ryszard Ewiak says:

    @Mister Bluster: “For many will come in the name of me, saying: ‘I am the anointed’; and will mislead many.” Someone who claims to act in the name of Jesus Christ surely will not declare to be the Messiah. Those, however, say that they are anointed. This is the only way to deceive many believers of Jesus Christ.
    This warning has nothing to do with the person of Donald Trump. This applies to some religious leaders.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ryszard Ewiak: Neither Jerry Falwell nor Paula White frequent this den of blasphemers. Maybe you are in the wrong place?

  11. MarkedMan says:

    The tradition of seeing prophesy in scriptures go back as long as there have been scriptures. It’s kind of fascinating just how self deluded these dime store prophets can be. Take the biblical prophesies like the one above. The same passages have been recycled thousands of times about virtually every country and every current event. But no matter how often these prophets have been proven to be clowns, the next one off the bus is certain they, and they alone, finally have the keen insight required to read the signs.

  12. Barry says:

    What puzzles me is that this guy seems qualified to be the Secretary of Defense. That worries me, as well.

  13. Mister Bluster says:

    @Ryszard Ewiak:..This warning has nothing to do with the person of Donald Trump.

    No. No. You are wrong. My interpretation of scripture is correct and yours is blasphemy.