President Trump will nominate Raytheon lobbyist Mark Esper as secretary of the Army, according to multiple reports and a source in contact with the administration.
Esper would be the third person nominated to be the Army’s top civilian leader and the latest high-ranking addition to the Pentagon from a major defense contractor.
A source told The Hill his Trump administration contacts say the report is true.
Esper has served as Raytheon’s vice president of governmental affairs since 2010. Prior to that, he held a number of positions at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
He also brings a wealth of experience in the Army, at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.
Esper graduated from West Point in 1986 and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel before retiring. His Army career includes a combat tour in Iraq during the Gulf War.
His Capitol Hill experience includes serving as director of national security affairs for then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). He was also policy director for the House Armed Services Committee and a senior professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
From 2002 to 2004, he was the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for negotiations policy. In that role, he was responsible for arms control, nonproliferation, international agreements and matters with the United Nations.
Esper’s resume also includes serving as national policy director for Fred Thompson’s 2008 presidential campaign and as chief of staff at conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation.
Trump’s first two choices for Army secretary withdrew. Billionaire Vincent Viola cited difficulties untangling his finances to meet Pentagon standards, while Republican Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green came under fierce opposition for past comments on LGBT people, Muslims and others.
Esper would also join several former defense contractor executives. Patrick Shanahan, who was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday, was a senior vice president at Boeing.
And Ellen Lord, the nominee for undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, was CEO of Textron Systems until her nomination. Lord had her confirmation hearing Tuesday.
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE (R-Ariz.) has expressed concern at the number of defense contractor executives being chosen by the Trump administration.
He raised the issue in Shanahan’s confirmation hearing and later told reporters he does not want Trump to nominate anyone else from the top five defense contractors.
Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman are the five largest defense contractors in the United States.
A person with knowledge of Esper's upcoming nomination predicted McCain will kill the appointment "during a painful confirmation hearing."
"Esper is not substantive at the level of an Army secretary — he's a lobbyist, not a program manager or business man and not what Army needs," they said.
- Megan Wilson contributed.