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Pick to Lead Army Marks First Openly Gay Service Secretary Nominee

Acting Under Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning (right) meets members of a M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle crew during a  live fire exercise at Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo: Army)
Acting Under Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning (right) meets members of a M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle crew during a live fire exercise at Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo: Army)

President Obama picked Eric Fanning to lead the U.S. Army in a historic move that makes him the first openly gay service secretary nominee.

Obama late Friday announced his selection of Fanning, who since June has served as acting undersecretary of the U.S. military's largest branch of service, along with several others for key administrative posts, mostly at the Defense Department.

"These fine public servants bring a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their important roles," Obama said in a press release. "I look forward to working with them."

Fanning has held numerous high-level positions at the Defense Department. He previously served as special assistant to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, as undersecretary of the Air Force from 2013 to 2015, as acting Air Force secretary in 2013, and as a deputy undersecretary of the Navy from 2009 to 2013, according to the statement.

Carter said Obama made "an excellent choice," congratulated Fanning on his nomination and called for a swift confirmation from the Senate.

"Eric served as my first chief of staff at the Pentagon, and it has been a privilege over the course of my career to work alongside him and watch him develop into one of our country's most knowledgeable, dedicated, and experienced public servant," Carter said in a statement. "I know he will strengthen our Army, build on its best traditions, and prepare our ground forces to confront a new generation of challenges."

Supporters for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender military families praised Obama's decision to nominate Fanning for the post.

"We are thrilled to see Eric Fanning nominated to lead the world's greatest Army," Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of American Military Partner Association, the nation's largest support organization for LGBT military families, said in a press release.

"History continues to be written and equality marches forward with the nomination of an openly gay man to serve in this significantly important role," Broadway-Mack added. "Fanning's expertise and knowledge within the defense community together with his sensitivity to issues faced by LGBT service members and their families is why we urge the Senate to move quickly to confirm his appointment."

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama pledged to repeal the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" law that prevented gay troops from serving openly in the military. In 2010, he signed legislation that repeated the statute.

An estimated 78,000 service members in the U.S. military, including active and reserve components, may identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to a Rand Corp. study from 2011.

For the other administrative posts, Obama picked Ricardo A. Aguilera to become assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management; Janine Davidson to become undersecretary of the Navy; Lisa Disbrow to become undersecretary of the Air Force; Jennifer M. O'Connor to become general counsel at the Defense Department, according to the release.

He also tapped Shoshana Lew to become the chief financial officer at the Transportation Department and Ambassador Thomas Shannon to become undersecretary for political affairs at the State Department, according to the release.

--Brendan McGarry can be reached at Brendan.McGarry@military.com

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Army Gays in the Military Department of Defense Brendan McGarry

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