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Trump expected to nominate Esper as Defense chief

Trump expected to nominate Esper as Defense chief
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President TrumpDonald TrumpBlinken holds first calls as Biden's secretary of State Senators discussing Trump censure resolution Dobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they 'forgot who was the true leader' MORE formally nominated Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command New Army hair and grooming standards allow for ponytails, buzz cuts and earrings Trump administration official Norquist sworn in as acting Pentagon chief MORE, currently the secretary of the Army, as Defense secretary, according to multiple reports.

The president made the official announcement Friday evening Esper as acting Defense chief earlier this week after Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanOvernight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops' role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee Biden Pentagon pick could make up to .7M from leaving Raytheon Lloyd Austin can lead — as a civilian MORE stepped down from the role and withdrew his nomination to lead the Pentagon.

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Esper, who was confirmed by the Senate 89-6 in the fall of 2017, is a former infantry officer and previously served as a top executive at the defense contractor Raytheon.

Shanahan served as acting Defense secretary since the beginning of the year, following the departure of James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Senate confirms Austin to lead Pentagon under Biden Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 MORE.

Trump had said he planned to nominate Shanahan to lead the Pentagon permanently, but never officially sent the nomination to the Senate.

The president announced Tuesday that Shanahan had withdrawn from consideration to lead the Pentagon on a permanent basis because the former Boeing executive wanted to "devote more time to his family."

The announcement came as reports emerged detailing multiple instances of past domestic violence involving Shanahan's family.

The lack of a permanent leader at the Department of Defense comes amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Iran shot down a U.S. Navy surveillance drone this week, with the two sides disputing where it occurred. Tehran has said the drone was flying over Iranian airspace, while American officials have been adamant the aircraft was in international airspace.

Trump then tweeted Friday morning that the U.S. was "cocked and loaded" to carry out a retaliatory strike against Iran before he pulled back at the last minute upon learning there could be 150 casualties.