WASHINGTON • United States President Barack Obama has nominated Mr Eric Fanning to become the next Secretary of the Army, paving the way for the first openly gay leader of a military service branch in US history.
Mr Fanning, 47, is currently serving as acting army undersecretary, and previously worked as air force undersecretary and chief of staff to US Defence Secretary Ash Carter. His nomination to the post must still be confirmed by the US Senate.
"Eric brings many years of proven experience and exceptional leadership to this new role," Mr Obama said in a statement last Friday. "I am confident he will help lead America's soldiers with distinction."
If confirmed, Mr Fanning will help guide the US' largest military service as it undertakes a sweeping integration of gay soldiers.
The position would give him influence over the selection of generals and over army policy - including the further integration of women into combat roles, the training of combat forces and the purchase of weapons.
The Pentagon updated its equal opportunity policy in June to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, a change in policy which Mr Carter announced at a gay and lesbian pride celebration.
Mr Fanning's appointment demonstrates that Mr Obama and Mr Carter want to keep pushing the military towards more openness towards gay men and lesbians, an administration official said.
Advocacy groups said the nomination of an openly gay man to lead a US service branch was a significant sign of progress in protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals serving in the world's most powerful military.
REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES