Senate Approves First Openly Gay Army Secretary

Eric Fanning
This photo provided by the U.S. Air Force shows Eric Fanning speaking at the 30th Space Symposium Corporate Partnership dinner May 20, 2014, in Colorado Springs, Colo. President Barack Obama is nominating longtime Pentagon official Eric Fanning to be the Army's new secretary. If confirmed, Fanning would be the nation's first openly gay leader of a military service. (Duncan Wood/U.S. Air Force via AP)

WASHINGTON — The Senate has confirmed the long-stalled nomination of Eric Fanning to be Army secretary, making him the first openly gay leader of a U.S. military service.

The voice vote approval on Tuesday came after Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts dropped his opposition to Fanning in a dispute over Obama administration efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and transfer detainees to the U.S.

Roberts said he received assurances from the administration in private discussions that the clock has run out on moving detainees to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Fanning served as the Army secretary’s principal adviser on management and operation of the service. He was undersecretary of the Air Force from April 2013 to February 2015, and for half a year was the acting secretary of the Air Force.

Roberts said he met May 10 with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, who assured Roberts “that, ‘I am the person who would have to execute it (the moving of detainees to the mainland), and the clock has run out.'”

Congress has included prohibitions on moving Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. in annual defense policy bills, thwarting President Barack Obama’s campaign promise to close the prison. Roberts said he knows Obama will continue to try and close the prison at Guantanamo before he leaves office in January, but said he takes Work at his word.

“He understands the significant and costly changes that would need to be made at Ft. Leavenworth to change the post’s mission,” Roberts said. “Most importantly, he understands the legal restrictions on funding to move the detainees to Ft. Leavenworth by January 20, 2017.”

Fanning served as the Army secretary’s principal adviser on management and operation of the service, with a focus on the budget. He was undersecretary of the Air Force from April 2013 to February 2015, and for half a year was the acting secretary of the Air Force. He also worked on Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s transition.

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