81°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Army veteran Mark Esper confirmed as secretary of defense

WASHINGTON — It took seven months, but President Donald Trump finally has a Senate-confirmed secretary of defense.

Mark Esper, an Army veteran and former defense industry lobbyist, won Senate confirmation Tuesday by a vote of 90-8. He was to be officially sworn in by the end of the day, ending the longest period the Pentagon has gone without a confirmed leader in its history.

The turmoil atop the Pentagon began when Trump’s first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, stepped down last New Year’s Eve after a series of policy disputes with Trump. He offered to stay another two months to get a successor in place, but Trump said no.

Instability not gone

Even with Esper now in charge, the problem of leadership instability at the Pentagon is not fully resolved. There still is no Senate-confirmed deputy secretary of defense, although David Norquist on Tuesday was nominated for the post and is scheduled to have a confirmation hearing Wednesday.

The senior leadership vacancies increased again last week with the departure of David Trachtenberg, the Pentagon’s second-ranking civilian policy official.

Beyond that, the No. 2-ranking military officer, Gen. Paul Selva, is retiring Friday as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No Senate confirmation hearing has been set for the man picked by Trump to replace Selva: Gen. John Hyten, who has been commander of U.S. nuclear forces as head of U.S. Strategic Command.

A military officer has accused Hyten of sexual misconduct . An investigation found insufficient evidence to charge Hyten, but some members of Congress have raised questions about that process. It’s unclear when or whether Hyten’s nomination will proceed.

Promised to fill vacancies

At his confirmation hearing on July 16, Esper promised that one of his first priorities would be to fix the problem of leadership vacancies.

“I need to staff up the top tier of the Pentagon soonest,” he said.

Carl Tobias, a professor of law at the University of Richmond, said he believes that in the months since Mattis left, the Pentagon’s sway within the administration has weakened.

“This seems to be the primary challenge that Esper confronts: regaining the power to set the Defense Department agenda and defend it by doing what is best for the nation and the world, not what advances the president’s political agenda,” Tobias said by email.

Esper had been the Army secretary when Mattis resigned in December. On Jan. 1, the deputy defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, became the acting secretary. But after nearly six months as the fill-in, the former Boeing executive abruptly quit.

Esper then became the acting defense secretary, but once he was nominated last week he had to step aside until after a Senate vote. So, for the past week the Pentagon had been run by yet another fill-in: Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer.

Preparedness, alliances, business practices

Esper, who has a wide range of experience in defense matters, including time on Capitol Hill as a congressional staff member, has said he intends to continue the Trump administration’s focus on improving the combat preparedness of the military, nurturing security alliances around the world and reforming Pentagon business practices.

All eight senators who voted against Esper’s nomination are Democrats. They include Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, who has sharply criticized Esper for declining to recuse himself from all matters involving his former employer, Raytheon Co., for the duration of his time as defense secretary.

Esper was a lobbyist for Raytheon, a major defense contractor, for several years before becoming Army secretary. He told Warren that Defense Department ethics officials recommended he not make the recusal commitment she asked about, but pledged to abide by all ethics rules and regulations.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
THE LATEST
Trump’s approval remains weak despite economy, poll shows

A new poll released Thursday by finds some support for President Donald Trump’s handling of the U.S. economy but gives him weak marks on other major issues.

Sanders’ $16T climate plan builds on Green New Deal

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has released a $16.3 trillion climate plan that builds on the Green New Deal and calls for the U.S. to move to renewable energy across the economy by 2050.

As Trump questions loyalty of US Jews, Netanyahu silent

Yuval Steinitz, a Cabinet minister in Netanyahu’s Likud party who is close to the prime minister, dismissed it as internal U.S. politics.