The Senate confirmed the long-stalled nomination of Eric Fanning to be Army secretary, making him the first openly gay leader of a U.S. military service.
The voice vote approval Tuesday came after Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., dropped his opposition to Fanning. Roberts quoted a top Pentagon official as telling him that no detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, would be sent to the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, or other facilities in the United States.
Congress has included prohibitions on moving Guantánamo detainees to the U.S. in annual defense policy bills, thwarting President Barack Obama’s campaign promise to close the prison.
‘The clock has run out,’ Deputy Defense Secretary tells senator
Roberts said he met May 10 with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, who assured Roberts he was “the person who would have to execute” the moving of detainees to the mainland, “and the clock has run out.’ ”
But in a statement, Work said he made clear to Roberts that the Obama administration has not taken any location off the table for relocating Guantánamo detainees.
He said he told Roberts that blocking Fanning’s confirmation was “depriving the Army of leadership at a time of war and was the wrong way to express his opposition to the administration’s plan for responsibly closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.”
Defense Secretary Ash Carter issued a separate statement congratulating Fanning. Carter said he is confident Fanning will make an exceptional Army secretary.
Roberts said he knows Obama will continue to try and close the prison at Guantánamo before he leaves office in January. But said he took Work at his word.
“He understands the significant and costly changes that would need to be made at Fort Leavenworth to change the post’s mission,” Roberts said. “Most importantly, he understands the legal restrictions on funding to move the detainees to Fort Leavenworth by Jan. 20, 2017.”
Fanning served as the Army secretary’s principal adviser on management and operation of the service, with a focus on the budget. He was undersecretary of the Air Force from April 2013 to February 2015, and for half a year was the acting secretary of the Air Force. He also worked on Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s transition.