UPDATE, May 17, 2016: Eric Fanning has been confirmed after the hearing had been delayed for eight months by the Republican Senator from Kansas, Pat Roberts. Roberts had held up the vote due to concerns over the Obama administration’s plans for closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The hold was not based on Fanning himself, though; last month Sen. Roberts said”Let me be very clear on this — as a veteran, a Marine — I support Mr. Eric Fanning for this post.” Instead, Sen. Roberts wanted assurance that Guantanamo prisoners would not be shipped to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
This past Friday, September 18th, President Obama nominated Eric K. Fanning to the post of Secretary of the Army. Fanning still needs to be confirmed by the US Senate, but if he gets the gig, he’ll be the first openly gay civilian to head the Army.
Fanning’s got a pretty impressive resume. He’s been the acting undersecretary of the Army since June, and he’s also been the undersecretary of the Air Force and deputy undersecretary of the Navy… not to mention the time he spent as the Secretary of Defense’s chief of staff. The “undersecretary” position is the second-in-command to an appointed official.
Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter said about the nomination:
Eric served as my first chief of staff at the Pentagon, and it has been a privilege over the course of my career to work alongside him and watch him develop into one of our country’s most knowledgeable, dedicated, and experienced public servants. I know he will strengthen our Army, build on its best traditions, and prepare our ground forces to confront a new generation of challenges.
Fanning is also the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Department of Defense, an accomplishment that will only be greater should the Senate confirm him. He’s been in the Pentagon since 2009, which means he got to witness the Pentagon during and after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, repealed by Obama in 2010.
While most of the press about the nomination has been positive, it’s currently unknown whether or not the Senate is likely to confirm Fanning. In what is not remotely a shock, the usual GOP suspects are not on board. Alleged Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said in a borderline-coherent statement:
It’s clear President Obama is more interested in appeasing America’s homosexuals than honoring America’s heroes. Veterans suicide is out-of-control and military readiness is dangerously low, yet Obama is so obsessed with pandering to liberal interest groups he’s nominated an openly gay civilian to run the Army. Homosexuality is not a job qualification. The U.S. military is designed to keep Americans safe and complete combat missions, not conduct social experiments.
Fellow Presidential longshot Sen. Ted Cruz was a bit more diplomatic:
I certainly hope that the secretary of the Army is being nominated because the President wants the right person to defend our nation and not because he is looking to make a political statement on issues of sexual orientation unrelated to defending this nation and keeping us safe. But as I said, I will wait until his confirmation hearing to assess his record on the merits.
Fanning’s confirmation hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Originally Published on September 22, 2015.