The U.S. Senate finally confirmed President Obama’s nominee to be the next Secretary of the Army. Eric Fanning, who is the 22nd person to hold the position of Army Secretary, is the first gay man (at least openly gay man) to hold any of the top civilian position of a U.S. armed force.
Fanning was the Air Force’ undersecretary since 2013, and before that he was the Navy’s deputy undersecretary and deputy chief management officer from 2009-2013. He also held position within the White House, on Capitol Hill, and in private consulting.
While he was seen as a superb nominee by many within the Senate, Fanning’s nomination has languished in the upper chamber for eight long months due to an objection from one Republican Senator, Pat Roberts. Interestingly enough, Senator Roberts’ objection was completely unrelated to Fanning, his qualifications, or him being gay; instead, it was in protest of the Obama Administration’s plans to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo Bay and onto U.S. soil.
Senator Roberts said that in order for him to stop holding up Fanning’s nomination, he needed assurances from the Obama Administration that this Guantanamo transferring would not happen. Other Senators, including fellow Republicans, pressured Roberts to lift his hold on Fanning.
Eventually Roberts stopped objecting, and the Senate unanimously approved Fanning’s nomination to the top defense post. Shortly before the Senate did so, Roberts went to the Senate floor and said: “(Fanning) will be a tremendous leader as Army secretary and will do great by our soldiers… I look forward to voting for Mr. Fanning, who has always had my support for this position.”
Fanning’s confirmation occurred approximately five years since the U.S. repealed its policy of barring openly gay people from serving in the military, which was commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Congrats Eric Fanning, or should we say Mr. Secretary!