Esper Nominated as Defense Secretary, Spencer Now Acting Secretary
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued July 15, 2019)
Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Richard V. Spencer walks into his office following the announcement of the nomination of Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper to Secretary of Defense by President Donald J. Trump on July 15, 2019. (DoD photo)
WASHINGTON --- Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer has become acting defense secretary, as the Senate has received the packet nominating Dr. Mark T. Esper to be the confirmed secretary of defense.

Eric Chewning, the chief of staff to the defense secretary, said the transition from Esper to Spencer went smoothly. "There is only one secretary of defense, and that person is fully capable of defending the country and protecting the homeland" said Chewing.

Esper was named acting defense secretary when Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan stepped down from the position last month. President Donald J. Trump nominated Esper for the position — a move that requires Senate confirmation. By law, Esper cannot continue to serve as acting secretary while he is under consideration for the permanent job. He reverts to his position as the secretary of the Army.

The principals involved in this program met this morning to discuss how the transition would happen. This included Esper; Spencer; David L. Norquist, the undersecretary of defense who continues to perform the duties of the deputy defense secretary; Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Chewning.

When Spencer became acting secretary, he assumed the full authority and responsibility of the secretary of defense.

To ensure continuity, the team supporting the Office of the Secretary of Defense remains in place.

"We've been working closely with Senate leadership and the Senate Armed Services Committee, and we thank them for their efforts and commitments to swiftly consider top DOD leadership," Chewning said.

DOD does not assume Esper's confirmation, and Chewning was quick to point out that it is the Senate's prerogative to take as long as it believes is necessary to examine and confirm the nominee. "Secretary Spencer is prepared to remain in the role until there is a Senate-confirmed secretary of defense," he said.

If Esper is confirmed by the Senate, then Norquist will be formally nominated to be the deputy defense secretary. In deference to the Senate, he will step out of his role of performing the duties of the deputy secretary of defense while that nomination is pending. If this happens, Spencer will then perform the duties of the deputy secretary.

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Statement by Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman on the Nomination of Dr. Esper to be Secretary of Defense
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued July 15, 2019)
At 3:04 p.m. today, the Senate received the president's formal nomination of Dr. Mark T. Esper to be secretary of defense. At that time, Esper ceased to serve as acting secretary of defense and is solely serving as secretary of the Army.

As a result, as prescribed in Executive Order 13533, "Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of Defense," March 1, 2010, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer became acting secretary of defense.

As such, Secretary Spencer has the full authority and responsibility of the secretary of defense. The senior team supporting the Office of the Secretary remains in place to ensure institutional continuity. Notably, this includes David Norquist, the undersecretary 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.

Additionally, Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly is now performing the duties of the secretary of the Navy. Ryan McCarthy is no longer performing the duties of the secretary of the Army and is solely serving as undersecretary of the Army.

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