Eric Fanning, the acting Secretary of the Army, stepped out of his position after several senators expressed concern about him holding the spot before his nomination is confirmed, according to the Defense Department. Fanning, who previously served as the acting Secretary of the Air Force, was nominated to lead the Army in September, but the Senate has not yet acted on the nomination. “We expect this move to be of a short duration and for Fanning to achieve speedy confirmation,” said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook in a Jan. 11 statement to the press. “He remains one of the most qualified nominees to be a service Secretary, having served in many senior executive positions in each of the three military departments and as Chief of Staff of the Department.” Former Army Secretary John McHugh retired in late October, and Fanning in November stepped in to serve in an acting role pending his confirmation. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) put a hold on Fanning’s nomination in early November to try to prevent the White House from using executive action to close Guantanamo Bay, according to The Associated Press. Additionally, some senators have raised concerns that Fanning serving in an acting role violates the Vacancies Act, so he voluntarily stepped aside and will now focus solely on the nomination, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Monday. The move is a “show of comity” to address the concerns, he said. Unders?ecretary of the Army Patrick Murphy will now serve as acting Secretary until Fanning is confirmed. Fanning led the Air Force as acting Secretary before current Secretary Deborah Lee James was confirmed in 2013. Before his nomination to be Army Secretary, he also served as Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s chief of staff.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.