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.