Trump nominates Army Secretary Mark Esper to be next Defense Secretary

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Mark Esper

FILE – In this April 2, 2019, file photo, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper speaks during a House Armed Services Committee budget hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Donald Trump on June 18, named Esper as acting Defense Secretary. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS) — President Trump announced Friday night his intent to nominate Army Secretary Mark Esper to be the next Secretary of Defense. Mr. Trump had tweeted earlier this week that Esper would replace acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who withdrew his name from consideration after reports of domestic violence incidents involving his family surfaced.

Shanahan officially steps down from that role Sunday at midnight, CBS News Pentagon correspondent David Martin reports.

Esper has served as Army Secretary since November 2017. A West Point classmate of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, he served as an Army infantryman in the 1990-91 Gulf War and commanded an airborne rifle company in Europe. His service earned him a Legion of Merit and Bronze Star. Esper then served in the Army Reserve and both the Virginia and District of Columbia National Guard before retiring in 2007.

Before becoming Army Secretary, Esper most recently served as a lobbyist for the defense contracting firm Raytheon.

The Pentagon has been without a confirmed leader since December when Jim Mattis stepped down following Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria. “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter.

Shanahan, whose confirmation was never officially sent to the Senate, had been serving as the acting Defense Secretary.

The lack of a permanent defense secretary comes at a critical time for the administration after Iran struck down a U.S. drone and Mr. Trump reversed course on a retaliatory strike on Iranian soil.

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