By Debbie Gregory.
If confirmed by the Senate, the first openly gay US Army secretary, Eric Fanning, could help lead America’s corps of fighting men and women into uncharted territory, on many fronts.
President Obama is nominating Eric K. Fanning, a close civilian adviser to Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, to be the secretary of the Army, an appointment that would make him the first openly gay secretary of a military branch.
The president said Mr. Fanning brings “many years of proven experience and exceptional leadership” to the role. “I am grateful for his commitment to our men and women in uniform, and I am confident he will help lead America’s soldiers with distinction,” he said.
As a civilian, Mr. Fanning has been the acting under secretary of the Army as the current secretary, John McHugh, prepares to leave his post. Mr. Fanning’s Defense Department jobs have spanned the services: He has served as Air Force undersecretary, deputy under secretary of the Navy and deputy chief management officer of the Navy.
Former assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, Doug Wilson, praised Mr. Fanning.
“Eric Fanning is one of the most qualified individuals to hold any senior position having to do with defense,” Mr. Wilson said. “The fact that he is openly gay and has been nominated for his position is just evidence of the degree to which Americans can accept sexual orientation as part of an individual, and not something that completely defines an individual.”
Mr. Fanning will help guide the country’s largest military service as it undertakes a sweeping integration of gay soldiers. While the Pentagon lifted a prohibition on openly gay service members in 2011, the culture remains resistant, to an extent, to open integration of gay soldiers into the ranks, as well as the promotion of women into combat roles. Some gay service members say they experience harassment and discrimination.
Phil Carter, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said, “The Army cares whether you can shoot straight, not whether you are straight.”
A graduate of Dartmouth, Fanning’s appointment was widely expected.