US Army gets its first openly gay civilian leader Eric Fanning

Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning.
Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning.PHOTO: TWITTER/ @SECARMY

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Senate on Tuesday (May 17) unanimously confirmed America's first ever openly gay official to be the secretary of the Army.

Eric Fanning, 47, had been waiting eight months for his nomination to be confirmed as the Army's top civilian leader, but the process was held up over political squabbling.

Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts had blocked Fanning's confirmation because he wanted guarantees that no inmate from Guantanamo Bay would ever be transferred to a Kansas federal prison in the event President Barack Obama succeeds in closing Guantanamo.

Roberts lifted his objection Tuesday, saying Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work had told him there was no time left for Obama to shut the prison.

Work later issued a statement with a slightly different account, saying no location had been "taken off the table" for a possible US facility for Guantanamo detainees.

"I explained to Senator Roberts that we are trying to achieve the goal of closure with the support of Congress and we recognise that there is limited time left to achieve that support, both in terms of lifting Congressional restrictions and winning approval of funds to execute closure," Work said.

Fanning has held an array of different posts in Congress and at the Pentagon over the past 25 years, including as an undersecretary of the Air Force, a deputy undersecretary in the Navy and chief of staff to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

"Eric is one of our country's most knowledgeable, dedicated, and experienced defence officials and I am confident he will make an exceptional secretary," Carter said.