• The Latest: Esper sworn in as new secretary of defense

    Updated:
    WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on the confirmation of Mark Esper as defense secretary (all times local):

    5:50 p.m.

    Mark Esper has been sworn in as the next U.S. defense secretary, ending the longest period in Pentagon history that it has gone without a confirmed leader.

    President Donald Trump said Tuesday that "there's no one more qualified to lead the department" than Esper. He called Esper "outstanding in every way."

    Esper is a former secretary of the Army who also has worked as a defense industry lobbyist. He won Senate confirmation earlier Tuesday by a vote of 90-8.

    The turmoil atop the Pentagon began when Trump's first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, stepped down last New Year's Eve after a series of policy disputes with Trump.

    Esper has told lawmakers that one of his first priorities would be to address leadership vacancies at the Pentagon.

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    12:40 p.m.

    The Senate has confirmed Army veteran and former defense industry lobbyist Mark Esper as secretary of defense.

    Esper's confirmation ends a stretch of seven months the Pentagon didn't have a permanent leader.

    Esper won Senate confirmation on Tuesday by a vote of 90-8 and is to be sworn in by day's end.

    The Pentagon had been without a permanent boss since Jim Mattis stepped down last New Year's Eve. Deputy Secretary Patrick Shanahan became the acting secretary, but after six months as the fill-in the former Boeing executive abruptly quit.

    Esper then became the acting secretary, but once he was nominated last week he had to step aside until a Senate vote.

    For the past week the Pentagon has been run by yet another fill-in, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer.

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