By Charlotte Alter
September 18, 2015

President Obama announced Friday that he plans to nominate Eric Fanning as Secretary of the Army. If confirmed, Fanning would be the first openly gay civilian secretary to lead the military.

Fanning has served for more than 25 years as a specialist on defense and national security issues, and if confirmed by the Senate, would work with Gen. Mark Milley to run the Army, the largest branch of the military. His nomination is one of many steps the Obama administration has taken to expand the role of gays and lesbians in the armed forces.

“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.”

If confirmed, Fanning would take the lead during a tough time for the Army. Eighty-thousand soldiers have left the Army in recent years, and 40,000 more will be cut over the next few years, the Washington Post reports, which would bring the Army down to its smallest size since just after World War II. The Army is also coping with a spike in suicides related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is dealing with aging equipment and tight budgets.

Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com.

SPONSORED FINANCIAL CONTENT

Read More From TIME

EDIT POST