Former Heritage Chief of Staff to Serve as Acting Secretary of Defense


Former Heritage Chief of Staff to Serve as Acting Secretary of Defense

June 19th, 2019

Esper brings decades of military experience to his new position. Photo Credit: Willis Bretz

Mark Esper, a former chief of staff at The Heritage Foundation, is taking on a new and much bigger role at the Department of Defense. President Donald Trump named Esper the acting secretary of defense June 18. 

Esper brings decades of military experience to his new position. After graduating from West Point, he served in the military for 21 years. Part of his time in active duty was during the Gulf War, where he earned the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal – Saudi Arabia, and the Combat Infantryman Badge. 

Upon retiring as a lieutenant colonel, Esper began working at The Heritage Foundation, serving as the chief of staff under then-President Edwin J. Feulner from 1996 to 1999. After his tenure at Heritage, he gained experience on Capitol Hill, working on both in the Senate and House. He served as the national security adviser for two senators, including then-Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. 

Esper also worked for the House Armed Services Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. Following his time on Capitol Hill, Esper was a senior executive at the Raytheon Co., which specializes in creating products for military defense.

In November 2017, the Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Esper to be secretary of the Army by a vote of 89-6. In this position, he oversaw everything relating to the Army’s 1.4 million troops and civilian personnel and was responsible for all matters relating to the Army.

During his time serving the United States, Esper has shown exceptional dedication to the nation. He has been awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. 

“Mark Esper is an all-American public servant,” says James Jay Carafano, vice president for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy and the E.W. Richardson fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

“The nation would be lucky to have Mark serve in any capacity, but he is particularly well-suited to step into one of the most important jobs in the world—leading the men and women of the armed forces in defense of America’s interests,” added Carafano, a 25-year U.S. Army veteran.

While serving as secretary of the Army, Esper spoke at The Heritage Foundation about the U.S. National Defense Strategy at an event hosted by Thomas Spoehr, director of Heritage’s Center for National Defense.

“The qualities that made Mark Esper a great secretary of the Army will make him a great acting secretary of Defense, and ultimately secretary of defense, if nominated,” said Spoehr, who served for over 36 years in the U.S. Army.

“Esper has an excellent blend of Army, business and Capitol Hill experience as well as a great relationship with Gen. Mark Milley, the soon-to-be chairman of the Joint Chiefs, which will serve him and the nation well.”