Confirmation rules will force DoD leadership gap amid growing Mideast tensions
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday night he would formally nominate Army Secretary Mark Esper to be the next U.S. defense secretary in coming weeks. But federal rules dictate that Esper step aside temporarily from running the Pentagon while he prepares for the confirmation process.
Esper will become acting defense secretary Monday, and will carry out those duties for a short period while representing the U.S. in upcoming meetings with allies. He will then relinquish the acting post after his nomination is officially submitted to Congress.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who is next in the line of succession of Senate-confirmed officials at the Pentagon, is then expected to serve as acting secretary of defense while Esper pursues Senate approval for the permanent post.
This process, dictated by rules and the status of the top Defense Department officials, means Pentagon leadership will remain in flux over at least the next several weeks, at a time when the White House is contemplating a possible military conflict with Iran and in the midst of other national-security issues.