In a historic first, the U.S. Senate confirmed on Tuesday Eric K. Fanning as the next secretary of the Army, making him the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Defense Department. Fanning, 47, replaces John McHugh, who stepped down from his post in November 2015.
“I want to congratulate Eric Fanning on his confirmation as Secretary of the Army by the U.S. Senate,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stated in a news release. “Eric is one of our country’s most knowledgeable, dedicated, and experienced defense officials and I am confident he will make an exceptional Secretary. Eric’s experienced leadership will be an invaluable asset to the Army at this important moment. I appreciate his willingness to serve and his continued commitment to our men and women in uniform.”
Prior to his confirmation, Fanning, who is openly gay, was acting under secretary of the Army and its chief management officer since his appointment by President Barack Obama in June 2015.
Fanning has no lack of experience in defense. Before becoming acting under secretary, he served as chief of staff of the Defense Department, helping manage Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s transition into the job. He also served as under secretary of the Air Force from 2013 to 2015, and as acting secretary of the Air Force from June 21 to Dec. 20, 2013. Beginning in 2009 he served as deputy under secretary and deputy chief management officer for the Department of the Navy and was also deputy director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. Earlier in his career he served on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee.
Fanning’s nomination to the post, which Obama made last September, had been held up in the Senate by Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who wanted assurances from the administration that Guantánamo Bay detainees would not be transferred to Fort Leavenworth, the U.S. military prison in Kansas, as part of the administration’s policy to try and close the prison in Cuba.
“I welcome the U.S. Senate’s vote to confirm Eric Fanning as Army Secretary, following Senator Pat Robert’s decision to lift his hold on the nomination,” stated Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work in a news release. “As I told Senator Roberts, his hold was depriving the Army of leadership at a time of war and was the wrong way to express his opposition to the administration’s plan for responsibly closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. …”
Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley tweeted at 0710 May 18: “Congrats Eric Fanning on confirmation as @SecArmy. I look frwd 2 working together 2 make this the greatest ground combat Army in the world.”