The White House formally submitted Mark Esper’s nomination to become the next secretary of defense July 15, one day before the Army secretary is scheduled to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC).

The Defense Department confirmed Monday afternoon that Esper’s nomination had been received by the Senate, and that Navy Secretary Richard Spencer is now serving as acting defense secretary, the role Esper had assumed since Patrick Shanahan abruptly resigned this past June. Shanahan had been serving as acting defense secretary since Jan. 1.

Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper (right), discusses unit readiness with Lt. Col. Christopher L’Heureux, the commander of the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, during Allied Spirit VIII at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Jan. 30, 2018. The Secretary of the Army visited Allied Spirit VIII to observe the training exercise. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Navy Undersecretary Thomas Modly is now performing the duties of the Navy secretary, and Ryan McCarthy – who had until Monday been performing the duties of the Army secretary while Esper was acting defense secretary – has reverted back to his formal role of Army undersecretary.

In a statement issued Monday, Spencer – who assumed office as Navy secretary in 2017 – told the department, “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.

“Our allies and partners can rest assured that the Department of Defense remains ready to respond to meet our commitments around the globe in support of our common goals,” he continued.

The Senate Armed Services Committee announced last week that it would waive the traditional seven-day grace period between receiving a formal nomination from the White House and holding a confirmation hearing for Esper, and will receive his testimony Tuesday morning (Defense Daily, July 11).

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who chairs the SASC Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee and vice chair of the Senate Republican Conference, told Defense Daily Monday that she has visited “many, many times over with Secretary Esper” and is “very much looking forward to that confirmation.”

It remains to be seen when other officials named to key department posts will receive formal nominations and subsequent confirmation hearings before SASC in the coming weeks. The Senate is expected to leave for August recess Aug. 3. The White House announced its intent to nominate Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, to become the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but reports emerged last week where a former military official accused Hyten of sexual harassment.

Ernst, who served in the Army National Guard and retired in 2015 with the rank of lieutenant colonel, told Defense Daily Monday that she did not anticipate Hyten would receive a similarly expedited hearing as Esper did.

“I think we have got a lot to sort through,” she said, adding that she is still personally sorting through a mass of documents related to the allegation that was issued to SASC members.

President Trump also announced his intent to nominate former Aerospace Corp. Chair Barbara Barrett to become the next Air Force secretary in May (Defense Daily, May 21). Undersecretary Matt Donovan has been serving as acting service secretary since Heather Wilson departed in late May to become the new president of the University of Texas at El Paso.

Trump is also widely expected to nominate Vice Adm. Mike Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, to replace Adm. John Richardson as the next chief of naval operations. His original nominee, Adm. Mike Moran, withdrew his nomination earlier this month (Defense Daily, July 8).