US finally gets new Pentagon chief as Senate confirms Esper

Former soldier Mark Esper was declared as 27th US secretary of defense Tuesday after gaining Senate confirmation, filling America’s longest-ever Pentagon authority vacuum as Washington faces mounting stresses with Iran and strives to settle the long-running Afghanistan war.

President Donald Trump’s second Defense Department chief takes over nearly seven months after the shock departure of Jim Mattis, the deeply recognized career US Marine who broke with Trump over policy on the Middle East and Afghanistan.

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Two others were assigned acting defense secretary this year to fulfill the void — including Patrick Shanahan, who subserved a six-month interim stint but quit for family reasons in June and withdrew from thought for the full-time top post.

Esper sailed through the approval process at lightning speed. He received broad bipartisan backing and was confirmed by a vote of 90 to 8.

Later Tuesday, he was declared in at an Oval Office ceremony attended by several Senate Republicans and Trump, who called it “a very important day” for the country.

“There is no one more qualified to lead the Department of Defense,” the president said.

Esper’s approval brings ballast to a Pentagon destabilized by the administration revolving door since late December and comes as the world’s primary military leadership is engaged in conflicts in countries including Afghanistan and is being tested by Tehran.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in Congress, applauded Esper, who served a two-year stint as secretary of the US Army beginning in 2017, as “a thoroughly well-prepared nominee” who has the honor of the national security community and can hit the ground running.

“The world is full of serious threats to America, to our allies and to our interests, not least among them is Iran’s insistence on continuing to ratchet up tensions in the Middle East,” McConnell said in a Senate floor conversation Monday.

“Having a Senate-confirmed secretary of defense, especially one of this quality, could not come a moment too soon.”

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