Appointee Watch: A New Army Secretary, Press Office Turmoil and Another Round of Ambassadors

More than two months after President Trump’s second choice to lead the U.S. Army withdrew from consideration for the post, the White House has announced its new pick for the job.

Mark Esper, a combined 21-year veteran of the Army and National Guard, was announced as the nominee for Army secretary on July 19. He is currently the vice president of government relations at defense contractor Raytheon Co.

Esper served as an infantry officer during the first Gulf War and later served on Capitol Hill as a national security staffer to Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.; Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.; and Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

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Trump initially nominated Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola to lead the military branch, but he withdrew his name from consideration after he was unable to disentangle himself from his business ties. The White House then named Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green to the post. But Green’s controversial past statements, particularly on LGBT issues, jeopardized his confirmation process, and he too withdrew from consideration in May.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to shake up his team in the West Wing, hiring former hedge-fund manager Anthony Scaramucci to serve as communications manager last week. That prompted the resignation of embattled Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who said he will leave his job next month.

According to The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service, which have been tracking more than 500 key positions requiring Senate confirmation, 49 officials have been confirmed for administration jobs. And while 164 people have been either announced or formally nominated to positions, 357 posts remain vacant with no nominee.

Among those named to agency posts in recent days are:

Agriculture: Samuel Clovis, undersecretary for research, education and economics. Clovis is the senior White House adviser to the Agriculture Department. He was a policy adviser during the Trump presidential campaign, and he served for more than 25 years in the Air Force, where he was inspector general of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the U.S. Space Command and was a command pilot.

Ted McKinney, undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs. McKinney is director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. Before entering the public sector, he worked for Dow AgroSciences and Elanco.

Defense: Robert Wilkie, undersecretary for personnel and readiness. Wilkie is a senior adviser to Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. He served on Trump’s transition team, and he previously was vice president for strategic initiatives for CH2M HILL, an engineering and program management firm. During the George W. Bush administration, he was assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs and special assistant to the president for national security affairs.

Joseph Kernan, undersecretary for intelligence. Kernan is senior vice president of corporate development for SAP National Security Services. Prior to working in the private sector, Kernan served in the U.S. Navy, both as a surface warfare officer and as a special warfare/SEAL officer. He retired as a vice admiral.

Anthony Kurta, principal deputy undersecretary for personnel and readiness. Kurta most recently fulfilled the roles of this position on an acting basis, and he previously served as deputy assistant secretary of Defense for military personnel policy and as director of Navy flag officer management and development. He served 32 years on active duty as a Navy Surface Warfare officer, retiring as a real admiral.

Guy Roberts, assistant secretary for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs. Roberts is president of GBR Consulting. Roberts is a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, retiring as a colonel, and he served as deputy assistant secretary general for weapons of mass destruction and director of nuclear policy for NATO from 2005 until 2011.

Environmental Protection Agency: Michael Dourson, assistant administrator for toxic substances. Dourson is a professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine’s Risk Science Center. He founded the Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, a nonprofit, and previously worked at the EPA.

Homeland Security: Daniel Craig, deputy administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency. Not the British actor, Craig most recently was vice president for Adjusters International Inc., a disaster preparedness consulting firm. Prior to entering the private sector, Craig was director of recovery for FEMA during the George W. Bush administration.

Daniel Kaniewski, deputy administrator for national preparedness, FEMA. Kaniewski was most recently vice president for global resilience at AIR Worldwide, a private consulting firm, and a senior fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. He previously served on the White House staff during the George W. Bush administration as director of response and recovery policy and as special assistant to the president for homeland security.

Interior: Joseph Balash, assistant secretary for land and mineral management. Balash is the chief of staff to Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Ala. He is the former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and from 2006 through 2010 he advised governors Sarah Palin and Sean Parnell on natural resources policies.

Securities and Exchange Commission: Hester Peirce, commissioner. Peirce is a senior research fellow and director of the Financial Markets Working Group at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.

State: A. Wess Mitchell, assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs. Mitchell co-founded the Center for European Policy Analysis and is its president and CEO.

Peter Barlerin, ambassador to Cameroon. Barlerin has been a career diplomat since 1989 and he currently is deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of African Affairs.

John Bass, ambassador to Afghanistan. Bass is a career member of the senior foreign service and has served in the diplomatic corps since 1988. He currently serves as ambassador to Turkey, and he was ambassador to Georgia.

Michael Dodman, ambassador to Mauritania. Dodman is currently an executive assistant in the State Department’s office of the undersecretary for economic growth. He has been a career diplomat since 1987 and has held posts in Pakistan, Iraq and the U.S. Mission to the European Union.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, ambassador to Timor-Leste. Fitzpatrick has been a career diplomat since 1983, and she is the State Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

Jon Huntsman, ambassador to Russia. Huntsman is the former governor of Utah, and he served as ambassador to China and Singapore. He currently is chairman of the Atlantic Council, a foreign policy think tank.

C.J. Mahoney, deputy trade representative for investment services, labor, environment, Africa, China and the Western Hemisphere. Mahoney is an attorney with a focus on international disputes and arbitration. He previously clerked at the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals and for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Michele Sison, ambassador to Haiti. Sison has been a career diplomat since 1982, and she currently is deputy permanent representative to the United Nations. She previously served as ambassador to Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

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