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US Senate confirms Mark Esper as defence secretary

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The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Army Secretary Mark Esper as Secretary of Defence, who will fill a key post in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.

The bipartisan 90 to 8 votes confirmed the nomination of Esper, who has served as defense chief in an acting capacity for the past month in a position that had been vacant since the resignation of James Mattis in Dec. 2018.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that prior to the vote that “the nominee is beyond qualified, his record of public service is beyond impressive.

“His commitment to serving our service members is beyond obvious and the need for a Senate-confirmed secretary of defense is beyond urgent.”

In a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier in June, Esper discussed challenges from Iran, China and Russia, and he defended his record as a lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon prior to joining the Trump administration.

He was not asked a single question about continuing involvement of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Esper stepped in after the previous nominee, Patrick Shanahan, withdrew his nomination and also resigned as acting defense secretary amid reports about possible domestic violence in a marriage that ended in divorce eight years earlier.

Shanahan had served as acting defense chief since Mattis’ December resignation, reportedly over a disagreement over plans by Trump to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

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