Just in time for the new year, the Army has cemented its top civilian leadership with the swearing-in of Army Secretary Mark Esper.

Esper comes on board 10 months into the Trump administration, but former acting Secretary Bob Speer and Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy, confirmed in August, kept his seat warm by standing up the new Army Modernization Command and the Security Force Assistance Brigades.

Esper’s priorities will follow in that vein, he said in a Nov. 21 letter to the force.

“As I return to duty, I want you to know that my first priority is readiness – ensuring the Total Army is ready to deploy, fight and win across the entire spectrum of conflict, with an immediate focus on preparing for a high-end fight against a near-peer adversary,” he wrote. “Improving readiness is the benchmark for everything we do; it should guide our decision-making.”

Modernization and reform rounded out his top three, which go hand in hand with the new Army Modernization Command.

Cross-functional teams lead by officers with prior command experience are tasked with streamlining the Army’s procurement process. They will focus on revamping six areas crucial to combat, which have fallen by the wayside in a restricted budget environment.

Those include Long-Range Precision Fires, the next-generation combat vehicle, Future Vertical Lift, the network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.

“I will be working hard on all of these priorities, and welcome your ideas on how we can best achieve them,” Esper wrote. “To be successful, we must work together and empower people at all levels to lead, innovate, and make smart decisions.”

Esper graduated from West Point in 1986 and served on active duty for 10 years, deploying to Operation Desert Storm with the 101st Airborne Division, before moving to the Army Reserve as a lieutenant colonel.

He served in the early 2000s as deputy assistant secretary of defense for negotiations policy and then as director of national security affairs in the Office of the Senate Majority Leader.

Esper became vice president of government relations at defense contractor Raytheon in 2010, the job he held until his confirmation.

“I look forward to meeting with and hearing from many of you in the months ahead, and am excited about the great things we will accomplish together,” he wrote.

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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