The Latest: Esper sworn in as new secretary of defense

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FILE – In this June 26, 2019 file photo, Acting U.S. Secretary for Defense Mark Esper speaks during a press point with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg prior to a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Esper, an Army veteran and former defense industry lobbyist, won Senate confirmation Tuesday to be the Secretary of Defense. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, Pool)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the confirmation of Mark Esper as defense secretary (all times local):

5:50 p.m.

Mark Esper has been sworn in as the next U.S. defense secretary, ending the longest period in Pentagon history that it has gone without a confirmed leader.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that “there’s no one more qualified to lead the department” than Esper. He called Esper “outstanding in every way.”

Esper is a former secretary of the Army who also has worked as a defense industry lobbyist. He won Senate confirmation earlier Tuesday by a vote of 90-8.

The turmoil atop the Pentagon began when Trump’s first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, stepped down last New Year’s Eve after a series of policy disputes with Trump.

Esper has told lawmakers that one of his first priorities would be to address leadership vacancies at the Pentagon.

___

12:40 p.m.

The Senate has confirmed Army veteran and former defense industry lobbyist Mark Esper as secretary of defense.

Esper’s confirmation ends a stretch of seven months the Pentagon didn’t have a permanent leader.

Esper won Senate confirmation on Tuesday by a vote of 90-8 and is to be sworn in by day’s end.

The Pentagon had been without a permanent boss since Jim Mattis stepped down last New Year’s Eve. Deputy Secretary Patrick Shanahan became the acting secretary, but after six months as the fill-in the former Boeing executive abruptly quit.

Esper then became the acting secretary, but once he was nominated last week he had to step aside until a Senate vote.

For the past week the Pentagon has been run by yet another fill-in, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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