Dr. Mark T. Esper became the 27th Secretary of Defense in July 2019 after being confirmed 90-8 by the U.S. Senate. During his tenure, Esper led the department through unprecedented times: from conflict with Iran, an ongoing campaign in Afghanistan, and rising tensions with China; to the greatest civil unrest in decades and a once-in-a-century global pandemic. He also implemented a new defense strategy focused on the PRC; prioritized international alliances by strengthening U.S. and allied military capabilities; established the Space Force; improved the nation’s cyber and space capabilities; proposed a bold force structure for the U.S. Navy; and implemented novel warfighting and readiness concepts. In response to COVID, Esper took steps to protect DoD personnel while co-leading Operation Warp Speed, the national effort to rapidly develop and distribute vaccines.
From 2017 to 2019, Dr. Esper served as the 23d Secretary of the Army, where he launched a renaissance in how the Service organized, manned, trained, and equipped itself while refocusing on high-intensity combat operations. He also established a new Army Futures Command designed to accelerate and improve the Service’s modernization efforts, directed an overhaul of recruiting standards and marketing, initiated a new combat fitness test and basic combat training, and jumpstarted the development of a Talent Management system, all while advancing important initiatives for Army spouses and families.
Dr. Esper earned a BS from West Point, an MPA from Harvard University, and a PhD from George Washington University. He served as an infantry officer with the 101st Airborne Division during the 1990-91 Gulf War, and later commanded an airborne rifle company in Europe. His military awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
After leaving active duty, Dr. Esper worked in senior national security positions across Capitol Hill, as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon, in a presidential campaign, and with prominent think tanks, commissions, and business associations. He later served as a senior executive at Raytheon Company.
Dr. Esper currently works in venture capital and serves on public policy boards. His memoir, A Sacred Oath, is a NYT bestseller.