eric fanning army secretary
If confirmed by the Senate, Eric Fanning would have influence over the generals picked to rebuild the service. Pictured: U.S. soldiers stand in formation during a ceremony marking the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 11, 2015. Reuters/Mohammad Ismail

President Barack Obama on Friday nominated Eric Fanning to be Secretary of the Army, a move that would make Fanning, if confirmed, the first openly gay civilian to lead a branch of the U.S. military. Friday's announcement is the latest in a series of actions taken by the Obama administration to elevate the rights of gays and lesbians in the armed services. Army secretary is a high-ranking position that works alongside the Army general, a position Gen. Mark Milley took over in August, the Washington Post reported.

Together the two men would run the Pentagon’s largest military service branch. Fanning, who has been a defense and national security specialist for more than 25 years in Congress and at the Pentagon, would have influence over the generals the Army chooses to rebuild the service as the deployment of service mebers in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to wind down.

“Eric brings many years of proven experience and exceptional leadership to this new role,” Obama said in a statement Friday. “I look forward to working with Eric to keep our Army the very best in the world."

Army | InsideGov

Correction 4:33 p.m. EDT: An earlier version this article incorrectly stated Eric Fanning’s affiliation with the military. He has been serving as the acting under secretary of the U.S. Army, a civilian leadership position. The text and headline of this article have been updated to reflect this correction.