27th U.S. Secretary of Defense & 23rd Secretary of the Army

Dr. Mark T. Esper served as the 27th Secretary of Defense from 2019 to 2020, responsible for ensuring the United States’ national security, protecting the American people at home and abroad, and advancing the country’s interests globally.  In this capacity, he led one of the largest, most complex organizations in the world given its nearly 3 million service members and defense civilians, and $740 billion annual budget.  As Secretary of Defense, Esper made major strides in shaping and implementing the National Defense Strategy, which called for a return to preparing for high intensity conflict in a new era of great power competition.  During his tenure, Esper oversaw the largest R&D budget in the department’s history, drove spending on cutting-edge technologies, and advanced other initiatives to ensure the U.S. military modernized for the future.

Dr. Esper is currently the first John S. McCain Distinguished Fellow at the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University, and a member of the Board of Directors at the Atlantic Council.  Prior to becoming Secretary of Defense, he served as Secretary of the Army from 2017 to 2019.  Dr. Esper was a senior corporate executive at the Raytheon Company from 2010 to 2017.  He served earlier as an Executive Vice President at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and as Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Defense and International Affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association.  

Dr. Esper served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon during the President George W. Bush administration from 2002-04.  He was also a senior Congressional staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations, Senate Government Affairs, and the House Armed Services committees, and served as national security advisor for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.  

Dr. Esper is a 1986 graduate of the United States Military Academy and a combat veteran of the 1990-91 Gulf War. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2007 after spending 10 years on active duty and 11 years in the National Guard and Army Reserve. Dr. Esper is a two-time recipient of the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. Among his many military awards and decorations are the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal-Saudi Arabia, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.