WASHINGTON -- Dr. Mark T. Esper was confirmed by a vote in the Senate, 89-6, to become the 23rd secretary of the Army shortly after noon on Wednesday.
Earlier in January, after Eric Fanning stepped down as Secretary of the Army, Robert Speer took on the role of the acting secretary. In July, when President Donald Trump nominated Esper to become secretary of the Army, the Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy took on the dual role of the acting secretary until Esper's confirmation.
In testimony before the U.S. Senate, Nov. 2, 2017, Esper laid out for lawmakers his priorities if confirmed as secretary.
"If confirmed, my first priority will be readiness -- ensuring the total Army is prepared to fight across the full spectrum of conflict," Esper said. "With the Army engaged in over 140 countries around the world, to include combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, training rotations to Europe to deter Russia, and forward deployed units in the Pacific defending against a bellicose North Korea, readiness must be our top priority."
Readiness, he said, starts with ensuring the Army has the best possible Soldiers in the force.
"This means recruiting and retaining the best our nation has to offer, ensuring these young men and women are well-trained and well-led, and equipping them with the best weapons and technology available," Esper said. "Every unit must be prepared to deploy and accomplish its mission. These are the fundamental Title 10 duties of the Secretary of the Army, and, if confirmed, I intend to do them well."
Esper named four broad priorities he would focus on if he were confirmed as secretary of the Army. Those include ensuring Soldiers, their families, and Army civilians are "well-led, well-supported, and well-cared for."
Also top priorities for Esper, he said, are modernization, efficiency, and most-importantly, readiness.
"This means that units are fully manned, weapons and equipment are well maintained, munitions stocks are sufficient, and training -- particularly for high end combat -- is ample, rigorous and realistic," Esper wrote.
A 1986 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Esper served on active duty for over 10 years before transitioning into the Reserve, achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel.
His service included a deployment with the 101st Airborne Division during Operation Desert Storm. For his valor during that operation, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
Following his active-duty service, Esper served in a number of think tank and congressional policy advisor roles here in Washington.
From 2002 to 2004, he became the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy and from 2004 to 2006, he served as director of national security affairs in the Office of the Senate Majority Leader.
After serving in a number of other leadership positions with industry and government, he became vice president of government relations at Raytheon in 2010, the position he held before his confirmation to become secretary of the Army.
Esper earned a master's degree in public administration from Harvard in 1995 and a doctorate from George Washington University in 2008.
He graduated from Laurel Highlands High School in Uniontown, Pennsylvania in 1982.
As secretary of the Army, Esper has statutory responsibility for all matters relating to the U.S. Army: manpower, personnel, reserve affairs, installations, environmental issues, weapons systems and equipment acquisition, communications, and financial management.
The position of secretary of the Army was established by the National Defense Act of 1947.