The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing next week for Mark Esper, President Trump’s pick to be the next secretary of defense.
The hearing could set up an expedited schedule to confirm Mr. Esper, the former secretary of the Army who would be the Pentagon’s first permanent chief since former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned more than six months ago.
“We need Senate-confirmed leadership at the Pentagon, and quickly,” committee Chairman James Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, said in a statement.
Prior to being named President Trump’s pick to lead the Pentagon, Mr. Esper served as secretary of the Army since November 2017 and spent seven prior years as vice president for government relations at Raytheon, one of the nation’s top defense contractors. He also served in a variety of roles on Capitol Hill, including national security adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and policy director for the House Armed Services Committee.
Former acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan withdrew his name from consideration to be the next permanent Pentagon chief last month, saying the confirmation process is proving too difficult for his family.
The committee said in a statement it is waiving the traditional seven-day waiting period from formally receiving the Esper nomination to holding a hearing “given the exigencies of the situation.”
Due to federal law, Mr. Esper will soon have to step down from the acting secretary role as the confirmation process proceeds.
That will leave Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, who spent the better part of the past three decades in the private finance sector, running day-to-day operations for the world’s largest military for at least a few weeks. Mr. Spencer would follow Mr. Esper, Mr. Shanahan and Gen. Mattis as heads of the Pentagon in the Trump administration just since the end of December.
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