Just four years after the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, the Pentagon reached another milestone in its campaign to better integrate gay, lesbian, and transgender personnel into its ranks with the nomination of Eric Fanning, an openly gay official, to the Army’s top civilian post.
If confirmed to be the next secretary of the Army, Fanning he would become the first openly gay civilian to head a branch of the U.S. armed forces.
Fanning has been serving as acting undersecretary of the Army since June, after a brief three-month stint as Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s chief of staff earlier this year. In a relatively short career, Fanning has amassed an impressive multiservice résumé, having served as Air Force undersecretary and acting secretary from 2013 to 2015, and deputy undersecretary of the Navy from 2009 to 2013.
“Eric brings many years of proven experience and exceptional leadership to this new role,” Obama said in an announcement Friday.
Fanning has also been active in the LGBT movement, serving on the board of directors of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund from 2004 to 2007. In a May 2013 interview with the Washington Blade, Fanning said that during his first stint working for the Navy in 2009, before “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed, “it was very difficult when we were getting to the end of the first two years [of the Obama administration] and it wasn’t clear if we were going to be able to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ I didn’t know what I was going to do if we didn’t get the repeal through, because some people couldn’t work because they were openly gay or lesbian.”
In August, Patrick Murphy, an Iraq War vet and a Democrat who served in Congress as a representative from Pennsylvania from 2007 to 2011, was nominated to serve as undersecretary of the Army. In 2010, Murphy was instrumental in introducing the bill that would overturn the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law.
If confirmed, the two would make up a new leadership team at the top of the Army, along with Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who began his post in August.
Photo credit: U.S. Defense Department photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo