Mark T Esper Biography & Facts
Mark Thomas Esper (born April 26, 1964) is an American politician and manufacturing executive who served as the 27th United States secretary of defense from 2019 to 2020. A member of the Republican Party, he had previously served as the 23rd U.S. secretary of the Army from November 2017 to July 2019.
A West Point graduate, Esper joined the United States Army and saw combat during the Gulf War as an infantry officer with the 101st Airborne Division. Esper subsequently served in the 82nd Airborne Division and the Army National Guard. After leaving military service, he served as chief of staff at the Heritage Foundation; a congressional staffer; a deputy assistant secretary of defense; and a senior executive for the Aerospace Industries Association, the Global Intellectual Property Center, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Immediately before joining the Trump administration, Esper lobbied for defense contractor Raytheon as its vice president of government relations.
In 2017, he joined the Trump administration as the 23rd secretary of the Army. In 2019, Esper was named acting defense secretary; he was confirmed shortly afterwards as the 27th defense secretary by the United States Senate with a vote of 90–8. He was fired by President Donald Trump by tweet on November 9, 2020.
Early life and education
Esper was born on April 26, 1964, in Uniontown, Pennsylvania as the son of Pauline "Polly" Reagan and Thomas Joseph Esper. His father was a member of the Maronite Church. His paternal grandfather was an immigrant from Lebanon, and his uncle was war journalist George Esper.Esper graduated from Laurel Highlands High School outside Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in 1982. He received his Bachelor of Science in engineering from the United States Military Academy in 1986. Esper was a dean's list student at West Point and received the Douglas MacArthur Award for Leadership. He received a master's degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard in 1995 and a doctorate in public policy from George Washington University in 2008.
Esper served as an infantry officer with the 101st Airborne Division and deployed with the "Screaming Eagles" for the Gulf War. His battalion was part of the famous "left hook" that led to the defeat of the Iraqi Army. He later commanded an airborne rifle company in Europe and served as an Army fellow at the Pentagon. Esper served on active duty for more than ten years before moving to the Army National Guard and later the Army Reserve, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Esper is a recipient of the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. Among his military awards and decorations are the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.Esper was chief of staff at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, from 1996 to 1998. From 1998 to 2002, Esper served as a senior professional staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. He was also a senior policy advisor and legislative director for U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel. He was policy director for the House Armed Services Committee from 2001 to 2002. From 2002 to 2004, Esper served in George W. Bush's administration as deputy assistant secretary of defense for negotiations policy, where he was responsible for a broad range of nonproliferation, arms control and international security issues. He was director for national security affairs for the U.S. Senate under Majority Leader Bill Frist from 2004 to 2006.
Esper was executive vice president at the Aerospace Industries Association in 2006 and 2007. From September 2007 to February 2008, Esper served as national policy director to U.S. Senator Fred Thompson in his 2008 presidential campaign. From 2008 to 2010, Esper served as executive vice president of the Global Intellectual Property Center and vice president for Europe and Eurasia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He was hired as vice president of government relations at defense contractor Raytheon in July 2010. Esper was recognized as a top corporate lobbyist by The Hill in 2015 and 2016. Esper's departure from Raytheon included a deferred compensation package after 2022, based partly on Raytheon's stock price.
Secretary of the Army
President Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Esper as Secretary of the Army on June 19, 2017. He was Trump's third nominee for the position, following the withdrawals of Vincent Viola and Mark E. Green. He was confirmed to this post by an 89–6 vote of the U.S. Senate on November 15, 2017 and sworn in on November 20, 2017.
President Trump tweeted his objections to transgender servicemembers in July 2017, and, under his Presidential Memorandum of August 25, 2017, he required the Department of Defense to produce a report on this subject. Esper was asked by reporters in February 2018 whether soldiers had concerns about serving beside openly transgender individuals. He replied: "It really hasn't come up."After Esper was nominated to become Secretary of Defense, he said that he had met several transgender service members and was impressed with them. Nonetheless, he supported Directive-type Memorandum-19-004, which required service members to meet cisgendered standards associated with their biological sex. Esper claimed it was not a "blanket ban" on transgender service members but rather a policy to ensure that service members are deployable worldwide and can meet military standards without "special accommodations." He said that service members would be individually assessed and that some would be offered waivers to continue serving. In this interview, Esper cited the Defense Department's February 2018 report to support his views.
Secretary of Defense
Temporary appointment and nomination
Trump announced the appointment of Esper as Acting Secretary of Defense on June 18, 2019, after Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan decided to withdraw his nomination. Four days later, it was announced that Trump would nominate Esper to serve as Secretary of Defense in a permanent capacity. On July 15, 2019, the White House formally sent his nomination to the Senate. Following his formal nomination, Esper was replaced as Acting Defense Secretary by Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, as the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 prevented Esper from serving as acting secretary while his nomination was formally under consideration. During that period, Esper reverted to his position as Secretary of the Army. The Senate Committee on Armed Services scheduled a hearing on the nomination for the next day. On July 22, 2019, the Senate voted 85–6 to invoke cloture on his nomination. On July 23, 2019, his nomination was confirmed by a vote of 90–8.
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