July 21, 2019
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Mark T. Esper takes over at Pentagon after Shanahan steps down

Washington, Jun 24 (efe-epa).- The former secretary of the Army, Mark T. Esper, on Monday took over as acting defense secretary, replacing Patrick Shanahan, who last week announced his resignation, although he had not yet been confirmed in the post by the Senate.

Esper, 55, a reserve Army lieutenant colonel, has held top posts in institutions such as the Aerospace Industries Association and the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, and he was the top congressional lobbyist for Raytheon, a key defense contractor.

He was on active duty in the Middle East with the Army during the 1990-91 Gulf War and won a bronze star in combat in Iraq.

His nomination, which President Donald Trump announced on Twitter last Tuesday and officially confirmed last Friday, comes after Shanahan, who had served as acting defense secretary for about six months, announced that he would not go through the Senate confirmation process, thus ensuring that he could no longer occupy the post.

Trained at West Point and with work experience both in government and in the private sector, the new 55-year-old acting defense chief, is expected to easily move through the Senate confirmation process.

The Senate had confirmed Esper as Army secretary on Nov. 15, 2017, in an 89-6 vote and during his confirmation hearings, he said that his priorities would be "Readiness - ensuring the Total Army is prepared to fight across the full spectrum of conflict" and "Modernization - building capacity and capabilities in the longer term."

At that time, Esper said: "If confirmed, I will approach my duties with the values and behaviors proven to maximize the effectiveness of any team: act with integrity; collaborate broadly; treat others with respect; encourage innovation, critical thinking and straight talk; empower people; and hold leaders accountable."

Trump took advantage of the situation to confirm David L. Norquist as the No. 2 official in the Pentagon hierarchy and to nominate Ryan D. McCarthy, who was Esper's under secretary of the Army, to succeed his former boss as acting Army secretary.

Norquist is a financial management professional and government official who Trump nominated in March 2017 to be under secretary of defense/chief financial officer in the US Department of Defense.

Before joining the government as Army under secretary, McCarthy worked for Lockheed Martin, another big defense contractor.

After Esper took over at Defense, the Pentagon announced that he will travel this week to Brussels to participate in the NATO ministerial meeting, which initially Shanahan has been scheduled to attend.

Shanahan served as interim defense secretary after former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned in late 2018 after months of differences with Trump that culminated in the president's unexpected announcement that he was withdrawing US troops from Syria.

In his resignation letter, Mattis staunchly defended the system of US alliances around the world in clear defiance of Trump, expressed the opinion that Washington should treat its allies with "respect" and deal clearly with its adversaries, specifically mentioning China and Russia.

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