Newly appointed Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Wednesday he is pleased with the $738 billion fiscal year 2020 Pentagon topline included as part of a proposed two-year budget deal.

Esper, in his first remarks to reporters following his Senate confirmation, said he had “no complaints” about the potential spending level, despite it coming at $13 billion below the White House’s original budget request.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

 The White House and Democratic lawmakers reached a proposed agreement this week on a $1.4 trillion two-year budget deal that would lift the debt ceiling for two years and avoid sequestration (Defense Daily, July 23). 

Esper called the $738 billion a “good number,” adding his priority is to avoid unpredictable funding and continuing resolutions that would set back programs across the services.

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Esper as DoD’s first permanent secretary in seven months, while he noted there are still 14 Senate-confirmed positions that remain filled by officials serving in an acting capacity (Defense Daily, July 23). 

“People in acting jobs, when you don’t feel the full confidence of the role, sometimes folks tend to not behave as confidently because you’re unsure and you don’t want to bind the person who may actually be confirmed,” Esper said. “We need to get staffed up quickly.”

Esper said his former role as Army Secretary is one position that is likely to be filled relatively soon with an official nomination for Under Secretary Ryan Mccarthy to serve as his successor

McCarthy’s nomination is expected in “a matter of days,” according to Esper.