Former Raytheon [RTN] executive Mark Esper was confirmed Nov. 15 as Army secretary, in an 89-6 vote by the Senate.

Esper, is the Trump administration’s third pick to become the Army’s senior civilian and the final service secretary to be confirmed.

Former congresswoman, Air Force officer and National Security Council staff member Heather Wilson was confirmed as Air Force Secretary in May. She was the first and least contentious service secretary nominee confirmed under Trump.

Mark Esper
Mark Esper

At Esper’s confirmation hearing, Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John McCain (R-Ariz.) was critical of Esper’s industry ties and grilled him on the need to reform Army acquisition. McCain spoke Nov. 15 on the floor of the Senate in support of Esper’s confirmation.

“Perhaps more than any other service, our Army is experiencing the strain of 16 years of continuous conflict,” McCain said. “We owe our young men and women in uniform leadership that befits their service. I am confident that Dr. Esper will provide our Army with that leadership. His record of service in the Army, in the Pentagon, and on Capitol Hill provides the foundation for the leadership our soldiers deserve. I am also confident that he will call upon his experience in the private sector to bring a reform mindset to the many challenges facing our Army—such as the readiness crisis and the urgent gaps in capabilities and modernization.”

Richard V. Spencer was confirmed in August as the Navy secretary. Spencer, a financial industry executive who served in the Marine Corps from the late 1970s until 1981 and on the Defense Business Board from 2009 to 2015, was the administration’s second pick for the post. Investment manager Philip Bilden, withdrew from consideration in February. Bilden said his withdrawal was due to privacy concerns and challenges in separating himself from his business interests. He recently joined the board of directors for Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII].

Eric Fanning served as the Obama administration’s final Army secretary and resigned in January when the Trump administration entered office. Then-undersecretary Robert Speer served as acting secretary of the Army until former Army Ranger Ryan McCarthy was sworn in as undersecretary in August. McCarthy has been acting secretary since that time, including during the Army’s annual trade show, at which McCarthy and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley rolled out plans for a major overhaul of the service’s modernization structure.

Esper, who most recently served as head of Raytheon’s government relations, a West Point graduate and the current administration’s third pick for Army secretary was tapped July 20. When he is sworn in, McCarthy will resume duties as Army undersecretary. 

Vincent Viola, former Army infantry officer, founder of Virtu Financial and owner of the Florida Panthers professional hockey team, was announced as the administration’s initial nominee in December 2016. Viola withdrew because of conflicts of interest with his business dealings.

Mark Green, President Trump’s second nomination for Army secretary, withdrew his name from consideration because of negative comments he made about lesbians and gays serving in the military and about Muslims in general.