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Trump nominates Esper, Spencer temporarily takes over as Pentagon chief

16 July 2019

Richard Spencer is now acting defense secretary after President Donald Trump on Monday officially nominated Mark Esper to the top Pentagon job, defense officials announced. She asked that a list of those steps and actions he will take be submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which she is a member.

Spencer is the Pentagon's third man to serve as acting defense secretary this year. Notably, this includes David Norquist, the under secretary of defense (comptroller)/chief financial officer, who continues to perform the duties of the deputy secretary of defense; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr.; and Eric Chewning, the chief of staff to the secretary of defense.

Trump expressed sympathy for Turkey's position when he met Erdogan at a G20 summit in Japan last month, saying Ankara bought the S-400s from Moscow because the previous U.S. administration would not sell it Patriot missiles. Increased global tensions have prompted senators on both sides of the aisle to begin the confirmation process for Esper as they are eager for stable leadership after more than six months without a permanent defense secretary. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who has served in the Congress since 1991.

He added that he will resume his service as secretary of the Navy after a nominee is confirmed. However, Esper will not receive the same level of intelligence briefings as the secretary of defense because numerous intelligence programs are on a need to know basis, he said.

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Esper, who has been the civilian leader of the Army since November 2017, has a wide range of experience with defense issues, including years on Capitol Hill.

During Esper's Senate hearing Tuesday, he could be confronted by Sen. More recently he was a lobbyist for Raytheon Co., which does a lot of business with the Pentagon.

She wrote that she met with Esper last Wednesday, and he indicated that he would not extend his two-year recusal from decisions affecting Raytheon as she had requested.

Turkey has repeatedly said the S-400 is a strategic defence requirement, acquired mainly to secure its southern borders with Syria and Iraq, and that when it made the deal with Moscow for the equipment, the USA and Europe had not presented a viable alternative.

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Esper's nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled for Tuesday morning, as CNN has previously reported.

As soon as he took the handoff from Esper, Spencer sent a brief letter to all military and civilian personnel of the Defense Department.

Warren also raised concerns about Esper's memo in which he stated if an official believes it is in the government's interest for him to participate in a matter concerning Raytheon because it "is so important that it cannot be referred to another official" that the official could contact the Defense Department's Standards of Conduct Office to see if Esper could participate. The Air Force has had an acting secretary since Heather Wilson departed in May.

In a statement, the Pentagon said that by law when Esper was nominated on Monday, he stopped serving as acting defense secretary and reverted to his previous job, which was Army secretary.

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The senior Pentagon official said such a waiver would be considered only in an extremely rare circumstance.

Trump nominates Esper, Spencer temporarily takes over as Pentagon chief