By Debbie Gregory.
After two failed attempts at appointing an Army Secretary, President Trump has selected Raytheon executive Mark Esper as his third and hopefully final nomination.
The first pick, Wall Street trader and businessman Vincent Viola, dropped out due to financial entanglements involving federal contracts. Viola is a West Point graduate and former major in the Army Reserves.
The second pick, TN State Senator and former Army flight surgeon Mark Green, withdrew his name after criticism from activists and Democrats for past statements he made on LGBT issues.
Esper has an impressive resume; a West Point grad, he served in the Gulf War, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army.
After leaving the Army, Esper worked as a Pentagon civilian, a Hill staffer, serving as an aide to both Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) and Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NB). He was director of National Security Affairs for Senate Majority Leader Frist, and served as the legislative director and senior policy adviser for Hagel, who went on to become secretary of defense.
Esper was the deputy assistant secretary of defense for negotiations policy, responsible for arms control, nonproliferation, international agreements and matters with the United Nations.
Esper is Raytheon’s vice-president for government relations. Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain (R-AZ) as well as other senators, including Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Corey Booker (D-NJ) has expressed opposition to placing industry executives in top defense postings.
McCain was absent for former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan’s confirmation vote for Deputy Secretary of Defense due to surgery. McCain’s recent cancer diagnosis makes his role in Esper’s confirmation uncertain.