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National Security & Defense

Army Vet Mark Esper Confirmed as Secretary of Defense

Mark Esper before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

The Senate confirmed Army veteran and former lobbyist Mark Esper as secretary of defense on Tuesday, roughly seven months after General James Mattis stepped down from the position.

Esper, who served in the Persian Gulf War before going on to lobby for defense contractor Raytheon, was confirmed in a bipartisan 90–8 vote. Five of the eight Democrats to vote against Esper are running for the party’s presidential nomination.

The 55-year-old former Army secretary became the acting secretary of defense last month when Deputy Secretary Patrick Shanahan abruptly resigned the position after serving for six months.

Shanahan, Trump’s initial pick to replace Mattis, resigned before his confirmation hearing was scheduled after reports emerged detailing his divorce and his family’s struggles with domestic violence.

Esper is taking over amid a series of provocations carried out by Iranian forces in the Strait of Hormuz, a major thoroughfare that serves as a passageway for one-third of the world’s oil supply. In the latest escalation, the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized two oil tankers, one British and one Liberian, traveling through the strait last week.

“These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region,” United Kingdom foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement Friday evening.

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