President Trump formally nominates Mark Esper to be Secretary of Defense.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Trump nominates Mark Esper to be Secretary of Defense

July 15, 2019 - 5:06 pm

By Ben Krimmel

President Donald Trump formally nominated Mark Esper to succeed James Mattis as the Secretary of Defense Monday. 

If confirmed by the Senate, this will end an unprecedented period of limbo at the highest level of the Pentagon following Mattis' resignation in Dec. 2018. Since then, the department has lacked a permanent head for seven months. Esper's nomination hearing is scheduled for Tuesday and a vote is expected on his nomination before the end of the week.

Esper, who had been serving as the acting defense secretary since June, was required to step down when the nomination was received by the Senate Monday afternoon. During the nominating process, he will revert to his role as Army Secretary. Richard Spencer, who was serving as the civilian leader of the Navy since Aug. 2017, stepped into his place as acting Secretary of Defense.

After the nomination was announced, Spencer sent a letter to all military and civilian personnel of the Defense Department saying he is "prepared" for his "beief" stint as Defense Secretary.

“While my time in this role is anticipated to be brief, I am fully prepared and committed to serve as Acting Secretary of Defense, and I will provide continuity in the leadership of the department,” Spencer wrote.

"Our allies and partners can rest assured that the Department of Defense remains ready to meet our commitments around the globe in support of our common goals," the letter read. "It is truly my honor to serve alongside and lead the courageous soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and civilian employees who work tirelessly to guarantee the security of our nation."

Prior to serving as Army Secretary, Esper had a seven-year stint as the vice president for government relations at defense contractor Raytheon. He is also an Army veteran who served in the first Iraq war and has experience as a national security adviser on Capitol Hill. 

Patrick Shanahan, who was serving as the acting secretary before Esper, was expected to be nominated as the next defense chief before withdrawing from the process in June. ​​​​​​Prior to withdrawing from the process, USA Today published an article highlighting an FBI examination of a 2010 domestic incident involving Shanahan and his then-wife. 

Want to get more connected to the great stories and resources Connecting Vets has to offer? Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Related: