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By Kristina Wong - 09/18/15 04:52 PM EDT
President Obama is nominating Eric Fanning to be the next Army secretary. If confirmed by the Senate, Fanning would be the first openly gay person to lead a branch of the armed services.
“Eric brings many years of proven experience and exceptional leadership to this new role,” Obama said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Eric to keep our Army the very best in the world.”Fanning has served as the deputy undersecretary and deputy chief management officer for the Department of the Navy, deputy director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, undersecretary of the Air Force, and later as the acting U.S. secretary of the Air Force. Most recently he served as chief of staff to the secretary of Defense and acting undersecretary of the Army.
Gay rights groups heralded the news of the nomination and urged Congress to confirm him swiftly.
"Eric is well qualified to fill this important role," said Matt Thorn, interim executive director of OutServe-SLDN. "Eric undoubtedly has a masterful grasp on military policy and strategic defense initiatives that will serve the Army and the Department of Defense well during his tenure."
"Further, having an openly gay individual in high level positions within the Department of Defense helps to set the tone at the top and provides an opportunity to bring better understanding about both the shared and the unique needs of LGBT individuals in the military and their families," he said.
Fanning's nomination is one of a series of actions the administration has taken to advance the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people throughout the federal government. Some of those actions include providing benefits to same-sex partners, including in the military, where he ended an 18-year ban on gays serving openly.