SASC to Consider Esper for DOD Secretary July 16

Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks to reporters on a government aircraft en route to Brussels, Belgium, on June 25, 2019. DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold its confirmation hearing on July 16 to consider Mark Esper’s forthcoming nomination to be the next defense secretary.

The committee received Esper’s pre-nomination paperwork, though President Trump has not yet officially tapped Esper to formally hold the Pentagon’s top civilian job, the committee said July 11. Esper is currently the acting defense secretary, and would have to step away from that position and resume his previous post as Army secretary during the confirmation process. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer would take over as acting DOD secretary while Esper returns to the Army, the Pentagon said this week.

“We need Senate-confirmed leadership at the Pentagon, and quickly,” SASC Chairman Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said in a press release. “While we will act expeditiously to consider Acting Secretary Esper’s expected nomination, the committee will uphold our constitutional advice-and-consent responsibilities with the care and consideration this position deserves.”

Committee rules require the committee to wait seven days to hold a confirmation hearing after receiving the formal nomination, but “given the exigencies of the situation,” lawmakers waived the rules and set an early hearing date.

“Chairman Inhofe knows better than anyone how critical it is to have a permanent secretary of defense, and I commend him for his bipartisan leadership,” committee Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said in the release. “We’re expediting the process, but there are no shortcuts and this nominee, like every nominee to this critical post, must be thoroughly vetted and carefully evaluated.”

Trump appointed Esper as acting defense secretary last month after former acting secretary Patrick Shanahan, who was expected to permanently take the job, withdrew his name from consideration and stepped down amid reports about turmoil in his personal life.