Weekly Columns

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper recently settled into his new Pentagon office after the Senate overwhelmingly approved his nomination prior to the start of the August work period. 

He is taking the reins at the Department of Defense (DoD) at a time when the United States, our allies and our interests face a number of complex challenges and threats around the globe. 

In recent weeks, Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone in international airspace and attacked or seized tankers flagged by our allies that were traveling the Strait of Hormuz. North Korea resumed missile testing, firing short-range ballistic missiles off its eastern coast, out of anger because of planned South Korea-U.S. military exercises. Two U.S. Army paratroopers were killed in a combat-related incident in Afghanistan, bringing the total number of U.S. servicemembers killed in action this year to 12. 

The rising tensions with rogue nations like Iran and North Korea, along with the ongoing violence in conflict zones, are far from our only concerns. Near-peer competitors continue to challenge U.S. leadership on the world stage. Both Russia and China are showing off advanced technological capabilities and increased global reach while projecting an adversarial tone toward America and our allies. 

Russia’s litany of belligerent acts—which includes aerial bombing campaigns on behalf of a murderous regime in Syria and cyberattacks on Western democracies—cannot be ignored. Nor can China’s ominous warnings that it is prepared to use force if Taiwan declares its independence. The two nations recently conducted what Russia called a “joint air patrol” that resulted in a Russian military plane intruding upon South Korean airspace while ignoring repeated radio warnings. 

The multitude of pressures we face makes it vital that the role of Secretary of Defense is filled by the right person for the job. I am confident that Mark Esper is the correct choice to lead DoD.

Secretary Esper is a decorated combat veteran, a respected scholar and a proven leader. His expertise in national security policy, deep understanding of the inner-workings of the Pentagon and the bipartisan respect he has earned from members of Congress will make him a valuable partner as we work to ensure our armed forces are ready for today’s challenges and prepared to counter tomorrow’s threats. 

With his forward-thinking mindset, Secretary Esper will advance our military capabilities to counter emerging threats and ensure that our military is prepared for the future of warfare. He understands that while we must remain able to confront the asymmetrical tactics of terror organizations like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, an increased focus needs to be placed on the ability to quickly and decisively neutralize rogue nations while staying ahead of the military build-up of near-peer nations. 

Secretary Esper is taking charge of a reenergized Pentagon, the result of Congress and the Trump administration’s shared focus on lifting our military out of a period of strategic atrophy and chronic budget uncertainty. For too long, this mismanagement allowed our adversaries to gain a strategic advantage and weakened our military’s readiness.

This shared commitment to our national security—which includes the largest investment in our national defense since the Reagan administration—has helped renew America’s strength. I am confident that Secretary Esper will continue to build upon the progress we have made, ensuring U.S. superiority and curtailing threats that our global competitors might otherwise be emboldened to mount.