Mark Esper

Mark Esper

WASHINGTON – The Senate has confirmed Army veteran and former defense industry lobbyist Uniontown-area native Mark Esper as secretary of defense.

Esper’s confirmation ends a stretch of seven months the Pentagon didn’t have a permanent leader.

Esper won Senate confirmation on Tuesday by a vote of 90-8 and was sworn in by day’s end.

The Pentagon had been without a permanent boss since Jim Mattis stepped down last New Year’s Eve. Deputy Secretary Patrick Shanahan became the acting secretary, but after six months as the fill-in the former Boeing executive abruptly quit.

Esper then became the acting secretary, but once he was nominated last week he had to step aside until a Senate vote.

For the past week the Pentagon has been run by yet another fill-in, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer.

A 1982 graduate of Laurel Highlands High School, Esper attended the U.S. Military Academy and graduated from West Point in 1986. He served in the 101st Airborne Division in the Gulf War and later commanded an airborne rifle company in Europe.

Esper retired from the Army in 2007 as a lieutenant colonel and served as executive vice president for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center and as vice president for Europe and Eurasian affairs from 2008 to 2010.

He holds a master of public administration degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a doctorate in public policy from George Washington University.

Esper was sworn in as the 23rd Secretary of the Army in Nov. 2017.

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