Mark Esper, an army veteran and former defense industry lobbyist, was sworn in as the US secretary of defense after receiving Senate confirmation on Tuesday.
Esper’s confirmation, by a vote of 90-8, comes after a seven-month vacancy in the post. He was sworn in hours later at the White House by the supreme court justice Samuel Alito in a ceremony attended by Donald Trump.
“He’s going to be a great one,” Trump predicted at the swearing-in.
Esper will succeed the Marine general Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis. His confirmation ends a record stretch for the Pentagon without a secretary of defense, which began when Mattis stepped down last December after clashing with Trumpover the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
Trump initially nominated Patrick Shanahan, who served as acting secretary of defense until the disclosure of domestic violence incidents within his family caused the former Boeing executive to withdraw from the nomination process in June.
One of the central questions facing Esper is whether he can settle the Pentagon’s leadership turmoil. Several key leadership posts are vacant or will be imminently, including deputy secretary of defense, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and head of US Strategic Command.
The larger question for Esper, who served as secretary of the army in 2017 after leaving the private sector, will be the unfolding crisis with Iran.