President Donald Trump will nominate Mark Esper, a top lobbyist for Raytheon and a former Army officer, as the next secretary of the Army in the coming week, a U.S. military official confirmed Wednesday.
The nomination, first reported by the Washington Examiner, marks Trump’s third attempt to fill the post. In February, Vincent Viola withdrew his name from consideration because of family business ties, and two months later, Mark Green – a state senator from Tennessee – pulled out after drawing fire for his past remarks.
Esper is the vice president for government affairs at Raytheon. Before that, he was an executive vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Aerospace Industries Association of America. Trump has now nominated a number of people with defense industry ties for positions at the Pentagon.
On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Trump’s pick for deputy secretary of defense, former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan. During his confirmation hearing last month, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain ( R-Ariz.) voiced his concern about the defense industry’s representation on the Pentagon’s senior staff.
“I want to give the secretary of defense the team he needs, but I’m not going to give him a team that I think is business as usual over the last eight years,” McCain said.
Upon graduating from West Point in 1986, Esper spent more than a decade on active duty. His time in the Army included a deployment during the Gulf War as an infantry officer. He left the service as a lieutenant colonel and from 2002 to 2004 he served as a deputy assistant secretary of defense. Following his stint at the Pentagon, he spent time as the national policy director for Fred Thompson’s 2008 presidential campaign and as director of National Security Affairs for Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). He was also policy director for the House Armed Services Committee.
If Esper is confirmed, he would likely mark the third and final service secretary to fill out the Trump administration. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson took office in May and Navy Secretary nominee Richard Spencer is awaiting Senate approval following his confirmation hearing earlier this month. Trump’s original pick for Navy secretary, Philip Bilden, withdrew his name from consideration in February because of extensive overseas business ties.