President Donald Trump spoke at the Pentagon on Thursday to welcome new Defense Secretary Mark Esper during a full honors welcome ceremony at the building’s parade field.
Esper, 55, was sworn in on Tuesday after receiving a 90-8 confirmation vote in the Senate on Tuesday. The vote cleared the path for Esper to become Trump’s second defense secretary and replace former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
“Your lifetime of noble service has prepared you for this immense responsibility. On behalf of our entire country, thank you and congratulations,” Trump said to Esper. “You’re going to do a great job, I have no doubt.”
Trump joked about Esper’s overwhelmingly favorable vote in the Senate. “Ninety to eight — I don’t know, I haven’t heard that sound in a long time, Mark. Now I’m worried,” he said to laughter.
— Kristina Wong 🇺🇸 (@kristina_wong) July 25, 2019
Esper thanked him for the opportunity to serve.
“Mr. President, thank you, sir, for your confidence in me and for this incredible opportunity. It is an honor of a lifetime to be appointed secretary of defense and to lead the greatest military in history, and I am especially humbled that you would be here today to celebrate this occasion,” Esper said.
Esper is a West Point graduate, served in the Army, the Army Reserve, and the Army National Guard over a span of 21 years. He was awarded a Bronze Star and a combat infantry badge. He served in number of government, congressional, think tank, and defense industry positions. He received a Master’s degree from Harvard and a Ph.D. from George Washington University.
Trump also touted increasing defense budgets since he came into office, as well as the largest military pay raise in nearly a decade.
“We’re building new tanks, and ships, and submarines, and planes, and missile systems, to ensure that our warriors operate with unrivaled capability in conflict, any battlefield will be a battlefield in which we win,” he said.
“We have given our service members their largest pay raise in nearly a decade, and under this administration, we have faced the challenge of our time with clear eyes and fresh-thinking,” he added. “Our first priority is always the safety and sovereignty of our nation and our citizens.”
He also lauded the creation of the Space Force. “We’re going to be there, and be there in every way that we can.”
Trump also thanked members of the military. “It is the greatest honor of my life to serve as your commander in chief,” he said.
Vice President Mike Pence, the father of two Marines, also attended the ceremony and thanked Esper for serving.
“Mr. Secretary, because of this president’s efforts, you will inherit a military better equipped, better trained, and better prepared than any military in the history of the world. And the president and I have every confidence that you will lead the department with the same dedication and integrity that marked your 21-year military career.”
“So Mr. Secretary, thank you for answering the call to serve our country once again,” he said.