Mark Esper was named the acting Secretary of Defense by President Donald Trump Tuesday.
Trump tweeted that Esper would be the new acting Defense Secretary after previous acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan withdrew from consideration after the president nominated him to the position on a permanent basis.
Esper was appointed to be the Secretary of the Army by Trump and was confirmed in November 2017.
Esper previously served as an executive at Raytheon, a prominent defense contractor.
Esper was also the chief of staff at the conservative Heritage Foundation and worked for several congressional committees overseeing defense and foreign policy.
Esper served in the US Army for a decade and served during the Gulf War. He is a recipient of the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service and was awarded numerous medals for his service.
Esper has been married to his wife Leah for nearly three decades. They have three adult children.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Mark Esper Got Defense Job After Patrick Shanahan Withdrew Over Past Domestic Dispute
President Trump announced that Esper would serve as the acting Defense Secretary after Shanahan, who served in the role as he awaited confirmation by the Senate, withdrew.
“Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who has done a wonderful job, has decided not to go forward with his confirmation process so that he can devote more time to his family,” Trump tweeted. “I thank Pat for his outstanding service and will be naming Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, to be the new Acting Secretary of Defense. I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job!”
The tweet came after Yahoo News reported that Shanahan’s confirmation hearing was delayed amid an FBI investigation.
A spokesperson for Shanahan told the outlet that the FBI was looking into personal issues between Shanahan and his ex-wife.
“Before his divorce, Pat Shanahan’s ex-wife was arrested and charged for domestic violence. Shanahan asked for the charges to be dropped for the sake of his family and asks that this remain a private matter,” the spokesperson told Yahoo News.
Yahoo News reported that although Trump announced he would nominate Shanahan for the job, the White House never formally nominated him to the Senate.
2. Esper Was Appointed by Trump to Run the Army After He Worked at Major Defense Contractor Raytheon
Esper was confirmed to be the Secretary of the Army in November 2017.
Prior to his appointment, Esper served for seven years as a senior executive at Raytheon Company as vice president for Government Relations, according to his official Army bio. Raytheon is one of the top defense contractors in the country.
The Pentagon, which Esper will now head, is currently reviewing Raytheon’s planned merger with another giant, United Technologies.
The deal has already come under scrutiny from Congressional Democrats.
“This pending deal will likely raise prices, harm workers, stifle competition, and undermine innovation,” California Rep. Ro Khanna said, according to The Connecticut Mirror. “We cannot have the taxpayers and our soldiers bear the cost for the profits of defense contractors.”
Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the deal could have national security consequences.
“I am simultaneously concerned about the increasingly corporate culture at the Department of Defense and the growing consolidation of the defense industry,” Blumenthal said. “Both trends could have adverse impacts on innovation, competition, and costs, while increasing the potential for private companies to unduly influence national security decisions.”
3. Esper Was an Official at The Conservative Heritage Foundation
Esper has served at the Heritage Foundation, an influential conservative think tank, as chief of staff, according to his Army bio.
Esper also served as the executive vice president for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, as well as vice president for Europe and Eurasian Affairs. He previously served as COO and executive vice president of Defense and International Affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association.
Esper also taught at Missouri State University’s Department of Defense and Strategic Studies program in Virginia.
4. Esper Worked for Numerous Republican-Led Congressional Committees
Prior to his private sector career, Esper worked for a number of Congressional committees as well as the Pentagon.
Esper was a national security adviser to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and served as the policy director for the House Armed Services Committee.
Esper went on to serve as a staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations and Government Affairs Committees and also served as the legislative director and senior policy advisor to Senator Chuck Hagel.
Esper served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense (Negotiations Policy) in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon and previously was a war planner on the Army staff.
5. Esper Is a Decorated Army Veteran Who Served During the Gulf War
Esper graduated from the US Military Academy in 1986 and served in the Army for over a decade after completing Ranger and Pathfinder training.
Republican Rep. Mark Green told Fox News that Esper was a classmate of his and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s at West Point. Esper got the Army Secretary job after Green withdrew from consideration.
“I think Mark will do a fantastic job,” Green said. “I think he gets what’s going on in the world, and he understands the DoD’s role.”
He served during the Gulf War with the 101st Airborne Division and later commanded an airborne rifle company while stationed in Europe.
Esper returned from active duty and served in both the Virginia and District of Columbia National Guard, and Army Reserve before he retired in 2007.
Esper received the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal – Saudi Arabia, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
He also earned a Master of Public Administration degree at Harvard University and a doctorate in Public Policy at George Washington University.
He has been married to his wife Leah for 28 years. The pair has three adult children.