- The Washington Times - Monday, June 24, 2019

New acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday said he does not plan to make changes to the Defense Department as he gears up to receive the formal nomination from President Trump to permanently lead the Pentagon, according to a memo sent to the department and shared with reporters.

On his first day as acting secretary, the former Army officer sent a message to the department that said “the National Defense Strategy remains our guiding document and everything we do should support its stated objectives. The department’s priorities remain unchanged.”

A former Raytheon executive, Mr. Esper had served as secretary of the Army since November 2017, and was tapped by Mr. Trump last week after previous acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan’s sudden withdrawal from the confirmation process.

Mr. Shanahan, who served as acting secretary since January, stepped down amid an FBI background check that reportedly focused in part on years-old domestic disputes involving his family.

Mr. Esper did not address his predecessor in his statement, and said his primary goals as acting secretary include building a more lethal force, strengthening alliances with old and new partners, and reforming the department for greater performance and affordability.

“It is the honor and privilege of a lifetime to serve alongside you as the Acting Secretary of Defense … my confidence in the incredible skill, professionalism, and commitment of our military and civilian workforce has grown even stronger,” he said in the memo.

Before becoming secretary of the Army, he spent seven years as vice president for government relations at Raytheon, one of the nation’s top defense contractors. Mr. Esper also served in a variety of roles on Capitol Hill, including national security adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and policy director for the House Armed Services Committee.

“Stay focused on your mission, remain steadfast in your pursuit of excellence, and always do the right thing,” he told the department Monday. “Together, we will remain the most ready and capable military force in the world, which is what our nation expects and deserves.”

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