Eric Fanning, First Openly Gay Army Secretary Confirmed By Senate

Eric Fanning, First Openly Gay Army Secretary Confirmed By Senate
Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning talks with Stephanie Gaskell, an associate editor and senior reporter with Defense One, during the inaugural Defense One Summit in Washington, D.C., Nov. 14, 2013. The summit brought more than 400 members of the national security community and media together to discuss issues shaping U.S. defense strategy and global security. Scott Ash / Wikimedia Commons
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On Tuesday evening, the U.S. senate has decided to confirm Eric Fanning as the Secretary of the Army. It is a historic moment for both the U.S. Army and the Obama administration as Fanning is the first openly gay leader to serve in the role.


It was back in September last year when President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Fanning for the U.S. Army Secretary Post. According to the Pentagon, he was previously appointed as the Acting Under Secretary of the Army and Chief Management Officer by President Obama in June last year. Before that, Fanning also served as the Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Meanwhile, perhaps one of Fanning’s longest roles was when he served as the 24th Under Secretary of the Air Force from April 2013 to February 2015. Here, he oversaw an annual budget of as much as $110 billion since he also served as the co-chair of the Air Force Council. On the other hand, he served as the Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy from 2009 to 2013. Before that, Fanning was the Deputy Director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.

Prior to joining the administration, Fanning had been the Senior Vice President for Strategic Development at Business Executives for National Security, think tank based in Washington D.C. Here, he oversaw a number of international programs as well as a number of regional office operations in six cities across the U.S.

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Back in the late 90’s, Fanning also worked behind the national and foreign assignment desks at CBS National News in New York. But even before that, Fanning already had a calling for public service. In fact, among his first jobs were a research assistant with the House Armed Services Committee and a special assistant in the Immediate Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Following his confirmation for the role, NBC News reported that senators from both Republican and Democratic parties applauded the decision. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, remarked that Fanning’s confirmation represents a “historic moment for #LGBT servicemembers.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, also said that he “appreciated (Fanning’s) recognition of Alaska’s strategic importance & need for larger @USArmy.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter also extended his congratulations to Fanning, saying, “Eric’s experienced leadership will be an invaluable asset to the Army at this important moment. I appreciate his willingness to serve and his continued commitment to our men and women in uniform.”

The confirmation of Fanning to Secretary role was previously held up by Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, following a dispute with the Obama administration regarding the closure of Guantanamo Bay and transfers of a number of detainees to the United States.

With regards to this, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said, “As I told Senator Roberts, his hold was depriving the Army of leadership at a time of war and was the wrong way to express his opposition to the administration’s plan for responsibly closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. I made clear we need to have an active dialogue with Congress, and that the legislative process would give Senator Roberts a more appropriate platform to express his views.”

Roberts had reportedly agreed to drop his opposition to Fanning’s confirmation after receiving assurances that time has run out on the issue of moving Guantanamo detainees to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

Also read: Guantanamo Bay Closure Plan: Here’s What We Know So Far

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