WASHINGTON (Web Desk) – The United States Senate has confirmed the long-delayed nomination of the first openly gay Army secretary.

Eric Fanning, 47, becomes the first openly gay leader of any of the US armed forces. His confirmation, five years after the repeal of the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell,” rule, was hailed by human rights groups, the UPI reported on Wednesday.

Fanning was named Air Force undersecretary in April 2013, and became acting secretary for several months while the confirmation of now-Secretary Deborah Lee James dragged on in Congress.


He was also the Navy’s deputy undersecretary, its deputy chief management officer and was briefly Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s chief of staff last year. He was also briefly the acting Army secretary last summer.

Carter issued a statement Tuesday congratulating Fanning on his confirmation.

“Eric is one of our country’s most knowledgeable, dedicated, and experienced defense officials and I am confident he will make an exceptional secretary. Eric’s experienced leadership will be an invaluable asset to the Army at this important moment. I appreciate his willingness to serve and his continued commitment to our men and women in uniform,” he said.

The controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell,” policy which had prohibited gay and lesbian service members from being open about their sexuality began under the Bill Clinton administration and was ended by the Obama administration.