WASHINGTON — Acting Army Secretary Eric Fanning is stepping aside, at least temporarily, because Senate hasn’t confirmed his nomination, officials said Monday.
The Army’s undersecretary, Patrick Murphy, was confirmed last week, so he will oversee the Army. Fanning is expected to step down and move into another Pentagon post for now. He would return to the Army leadership position if his nomination is approved.
President Barack Obama nominated Fanning in September. If confirmed by the Senate, he would be the nation’s first openly gay leader of a military service.
In early November, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., placed a hold on Fanning’s nomination as a protest over Obama’s ongoing campaign to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility and transfer detainees to the United States. The move was part of an effort to prevent the White House from taking executive action to close the facility.
The White House had hinted that the president might use his executive authority to shut it down and move the detainees to the U.S.
Law currently bans detainees from being transferred to U.S. soil, but a Pentagon team has looked at facilities in Kansas, South Carolina and Colorado as possible alternative detention sites.
Officials weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
Fanning had been serving as acting undersecretary of the Army since June. The previous Army secretary, John McHugh, stepped down late last fall, and Fanning had been serving as acting secretary since then.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a written statement that Fanning agreed to step aside “as a show of comity” with the Senate and “to focus on achieving confirmation in the near future.”
Prior to that he served as special assistant to Defense Secretary Ash Carter and held senior positions in the Air Force, including undersecretary from 2013 to 2015.