The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) is working to have Army Secretary Mark Esper’s nomination for Secretary of Defense on the Senate floor for a vote by as early as this Thursday or first thing next week, the committee chairman said July 16.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told Defense Daily on Capitol Hill Tuesday that he hopes to have the nomination up for a floor vote either “Thursday or Tuesday,” meaning July 18 or 23.

U.S. Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper answers questions from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., July 16, 2019. Esper was nominated for Secretary of Defense by President Donald J. Trump on July 15, 2019. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is responsible for setting the floor vote schedule. While a vote has not yet been scheduled, McConnell said in a July 9 press statement that he had met with Esper and called him “an impressive leader with a distinguished record in uniform, on Capitol Hill, in the private sector, and as a senior leader at the Pentagon.”

“I look forward to the Senate’s swift consideration of Acting Secretary Esper’s nomination to the Pentagon’s top job,” he added. The Senate leaves for recess Aug. 2, and multiple members expressed a desire to see Esper confirmed before their departure.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has worked to expedite Esper’s nomination – which was officially issued by the White House Monday – and waived the traditional seven-day waiting period to host his confirmation hearing Tuesday morning.

During the hearing, Inhofe and SASC Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.), along with other committee members, emphasized the need for the Defense Department to have a permanent Secretary of Defense in place for the first time in over seven months.

“A confirmed Secretary of Defense will be more effective in the Pentagon, in Washington, and around the world,” Inhofe said in his opening remarks.

Reed highlighted in his opening remark the “staggering number of senior-level vacancies” in the Pentagon and noted that the department requires “strong civilian leadership” to help manage the operational and readiness challenges it faces, as well as “extensive” bureaucracy.

“I am concerned that the Defense Department is adrift in a way I have not seen in my time on Capitol Hill,” he said.