The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has agreed to hold a nomination hearing for Army Secretary Mark Esper to become the next Secretary of Defense next week, in an effort to get a permanent leader installed at the Pentagon as soon as possible, committee leaders said July 11.
The committee has received pre-nomination paperwork from the White House regarding Esper’s nomination, said a joint statement released Thursday from SASC Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.). Members have agreed to waive the traditional seven-day waiting period between receiving the formal nomination and holding a confirmation hearing, and will question Esper July 16 at 9:30 a.m. on Capitol Hill. News that the committee had scheduled Esper’s hearing was first reported Thursday by Defense News.
“We need Senate-confirmed leadership at the Pentagon, and quickly,” said Inhofe in the statement. “While we will act expeditiously to consider Acting Secretary Esper’s expected nomination, the Committee will uphold our constitutional advice-and-consent responsibilities with the care and consideration this position deserves.”
Reed noted that while the process was being expedited, Esper would still be “thoroughly vetted and carefully evaluated.”
“We need a confirmed Secretary of Defense who is effective, efficient, and accountable and in it for the long-haul,” Reed added.
President Trump announced Esper would take over as Acting Secretary of Defense in June, when Patrick Shanahan abruptly resigned after serving in the role since Jan. 1.
Once a formal nomination is sent to the Senate Armed Services Committee, a series of high-level personnel rotations will occur across the department, Eric Chewning, chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, told reporters June 9 at the Pentagon.
Esper will be required to step down from his current position as acting defense secretary and return to serving as Army secretary. Ryan McCarthy, who has been performing the duties of the Army secretary since Trump’s announcement, would go back to his role as service undersecretary.
At that time, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer will take over as acting secretary of defense, as he is next in line for succession as the leader of the second-most senior service, per the 2010 Executive Order 13533, Chewning said.
“For the last two weeks, we’ve been spending time with Secretary Spencer to get him prepared for his duties as the acting secretary of defense,” Chewning said. “That’s involved a range of operational briefings from the Joint Staff, as well as a series of briefings around the duties that the secretary of defense alone has responsibilities for, from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.”