West Point grad confirmed as secretary of Army

Mark T. Esper testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee Nov. 2 as part of his confirmation hearing. On Nov. 15, Esper was confirmed by a vote in the Senate, 89-6, to become the 23rd secretary of the Army. (U.S. Senate photo)

By David Vergun, Army News Service

Mark T. Esper was confirmed Nov. 15 by a vote in the Senate, 89-6, as the 23rd secretary of the Army.

President Donald Trump nominated Esper in July.

In testimony before the U.S. Senate on Nov. 2, Esper laid out for lawmakers his priorities if confirmed as secretary.

:If confirmed, my first priority will be readiness — ensuring the total Army is prepared to fight across the full spectrum of conflict,” Esper said. “With the Army engaged in over 140 countries around the world, to include combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, training rotations to Europe to deter Russia, and forward deployed units in the Pacific defending against a bellicose North Korea, readiness must be our top priority.”

Readiness, he said, starts with ensuring the Army has the best possible Soldiers in the force.

“This means recruiting and retaining the best our nation has to offer, ensuring these young men and women are well trained and well led, and equipping them with the best weapons and technology available,” Esper said.

“Every unit must be prepared to deploy and accomplish its mission. These are the fundamental Title 10 duties of the secretary of the Army, and, if confirmed, I intend to do them well.”

Top priorities for Esper, he said, will be modernization and efficiency.

Esper named four broad priorities he would focus on if confirmed as secretary of the Army. They include ensuring Soldiers, their families and Army civilians are “well led, well supported and well cared for.”

Additional priorities for Esper, he said, are modernization, efficiency and most importantly, readiness.

“This means that units are fully manned, weapons and equipment are well maintained, munitions stocks are sufficient, and training — particularly for high end combat — is ample, rigorous and realistic,” Esper wrote.

A 1986 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Esper served on active duty for over 10 years before transitioning into the Reserve, achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel.

His service included a deployment with the 101st Airborne Division during Operation Desert Storm. For his valor during that operation, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

Following his active-duty service, Esper served in a number of think tank and congressional policy advisor roles in Washington, D.C.

From 2002 to 2004, he was deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy. From 2004 to 2006, he served as director of national security affairs in the Office of the Senate Majority Leader.

After serving in a number of other leadership positions with industry and government, Esper was in 2010 vice president of government relations at Raytheon, the position he held before his confirmation as secretary of the Army.

Esper earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University in 1995 and a doctorate from George Washington University in 2008.

He graduated from Laurel Highlands High School in Uniontown, Pa., in 1982.

Since Aug. 2, Ryan D. McCarthy has served a dual role as the acting secretary of the Army, as well as the under secretary of the Army. He retains his position as under secretary.

After Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning stepped down in January, Robert Speer became the acting secretary until McCarthy began his tenure in August.

As secretary of the Army, Esper has statutory responsibility for all matters relating to the U.S. Army: manpower, personnel, Reserve affairs, installations, environmental issues, weapons systems and equipment acquisition, communications, and financial management.

The secretary of the Army reports directly to the secretary of Defense. The position of secretary of the Army was established by the National Defense Act of 1947.

Message from new Secretary of the Army

To the Army family,

Today I had the great honor of being sworn in as your 23rd secretary of the Army.

Having served previously in the Regular Army, Guard and Reserves, I know well that people are the Army’s greatest asset.

I fully understand and acknowledge the sacrifices our Soldiers and families have given to our great Army, especially during the previous 16 years of sustained combat operations.

Thanks to your service, our Army remains the world’s premier ground combat force and the bedrock of our nation’s defense.

This is why the readiness and welfare of our Soldiers, civilians and their families will always be foremost in my mind, and why I intend to pursue initiatives that will offer the professional opportunities and quality of life all deserve.

As I return to duty, I want you to know that my first priority is readiness — ensuring the Total Army is ready to deploy, fight and win across the entire spectrum of conflict, with an immediate focus on preparing for a high-end fight against a near-peer adversary.

Improving readiness is the benchmark for everything we do; it should guide our decision making.

My second priority is modernization — building greater capacity and capabilities in the longer term. This means growing our operational force while maintaining quality; reshaping it to be more robust and successful in all domains; and modernizing it with the best weapons and equipment available to guarantee clear overmatch in future conflicts.

My third priority is reform – improving the way we do business, including how we implement these priorities, to make the Total Army more lethal, capable and efficient. This means changing the organizations, policies, processes and tasks that consume time, money or manpower without delivering real value, and applying the savings to our top priorities.

Lastly, I place great importance on a commitment by all — especially leaders — to the Army values. This includes treating everyone with respect, collaborating broadly and always doing the right thing.

The Army is at its best when it works and fights as one team, and with the challenges we face ahead, a recommitment to these values will serve us well.

I will be working hard on all of these priorities, and welcome your ideas on how we can best achieve them. To be successful, we must work together and empower people at all levels to lead, innovate and make smart decisions.

I look forward to meeting with and hearing from many of you in the months ahead, and am excited about the great things we will accomplish together.

Army Strong!

Mark T. Esper

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