- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2016

In full ceremonial mode, hundreds of soldiers gathered Monday near Arlington National Cemetery to formally welcome Eric K. Fanning as the 22nd secretary of the Army.

The Army Band, the Continental Color Guard and a 56-flag procession representing all U.S. states and territories paraded at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall to greet the Army’s new civilian leader.

“I was beginning to think my arrival ceremony and departure ceremony would be the same day,” Mr. Fanning said, referring to his circuitous route to top Army leadership.

Mr. Fanning became acting secretary in November 2015 but was asked by members of the Senate in January to relinquish his post while awaiting confirmation. Eight months after his initial nomination by President Obama, Mr. Fanning was unanimously confirmed last month. He is the highest-ranking openly gay official ever employed at the Pentagon.

The “vagaries of the confirmation process” came as a surprise to Mr. Fanning, who said “now that the process is in the past tense, I can say that it is worth it.”



Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, had placed a hold on Mr. Fanning’s nomination while awaiting assurances from Mr. Obama that detainees from the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would not be sent to Kansas.

Mr. Roberts approved Mr. Fanning’s appointment after Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work told him “the clock has run out for the president” to close the maximum security prison before he leaves office, eliminating any threat to his home state, the Kansas senator said.

On the Senate floor, Mr. Roberts said that Mr. Fanning “has always had my support for this position.”

Mr. Fanning, 47, has no military experience but has held high-ranking posts across the armed services, including as Air Force under secretary and deputy secretary of the Navy.

Most recently, Mr. Fanning served as special assistant to the secretary and deputy secretary of defense under Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. Mr. Carter said he suggested Mr. Fanning’s nomination to the president, describing him as “one of the Pentagon’s most dedicated civilian leaders.”

“[Eric Fanning] has served in senior leadership roles not just [in the army], but in each of our military departments … That gives him a unique perspective on the pivotal connections that bind our joint forces,” said Mr. Carter.

Mr. Carter said that these experiences in addition to Mr. Fanning’s expert knowledge on nonproliferation issues and weapons of mass destruction have prepared him to tackle the Army’s current obligations in five areas — Russian aggression and coercion, historic change in the Asia Pacific region, deterrent forces in Korea, Iranian influence and terrorism by the Islamic State.

At present, more than 187,000 troops are deployed in more than 140 countries, said military officials. According to the Defense Department, Mr. Fanning will be responsible for all matters relating to the Army and its more than 1.4 million active-duty soldiers.

 

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