Eric Fanning
22nd United States Secretary of the Army
In office
May 18, 2016 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byJohn Michael McHugh
Succeeded byMark Esper
Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense
In office
Acting: November 3, 2015 – January 11, 2016
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byJohn M. McHugh
Succeeded byPatrick Murphy (acting)
Acting United States Under Secretary of the Army
In office
June 30, 2015 – November 3, 2015
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byBrad Carson
Succeeded byThomas Hawley (acting)
Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense
In office
February 17, 2015 – June 30, 2015
PresidentBarack Obama
SecretaryAshton Carter
Preceded byMark Lippert
Succeeded byEric Rosenbach
Acting United States Secretary of the Air Force
In office
June 21, 2013 – December 20, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byMichael B. Donley
Succeeded byDeborah Lee James
24th United States Under Secretary of the Air Force
In office
April 18, 2013 – February 17, 2015
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byErin C. Conaton
Succeeded byLisa Disbrow
Personal details
Eric Kenneth Fanning

(1968-07-02) July 2, 1968 (age 53)
Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Ben Masri-Cohen
EducationDartmouth College (BA)

Eric Kenneth Fanning (born July 2, 1968) is an American politician who is the current President and CEO of Aerospace Industries Association and served as the 22nd Secretary of the Army, holding office from May 18, 2016 to January 20, 2017. Prior to his appointment as Secretary of the Army, Fanning was the 24th United States Under Secretary of the Air Force. He was the first openly gay head of any service in the US military.

Fanning spent the first 25 years of his career in a wide variety of roles, working in Congress, at the Department of Defense, in the White House, and as a consultant before eventually returning to the Pentagon. He is notable as being the only person to have held senior civilian appointments in the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense during his career.[1]

Early life

Born on July 2, 1968, and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan,[2][3] he attended Cranbrook Schools in Michigan for two years and graduated from Centerville High School in Ohio in 1986. He received his B.A. in history from Dartmouth College in 1990.[4] His interest in government and politics began when he became involved in the 1988 New Hampshire primary contest.[5]


In the 1990s, he was on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee and later a special assistant in the Immediate Office of the Secretary of Defense. He later served as associate director of political affairs at the White House.

He also worked at Business Executives for National Security, a Washington, D.C.–based think-tank and at Robinson, Lerer & Montgomery, a strategic communications firm in New York City.

He served as deputy undersecretary and deputy chief management officer for the Department of the Navy beginning in July 2009. He was also deputy director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.[6]

President Obama nominated him to be Under Secretary of the Air Force on August 1, 2012.[7] He testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 28, 2013.[8] The U.S. Senate confirmed him by voice vote on April 18, 2013.[9] He assumed the position of Acting Secretary of the Air Force upon the resignation of Michael Donley on June 21, 2013.[10] He served as Acting Secretary of the Air Force until December 20, 2013, making him the second longest-tenured Acting Secretary.

In March 2015, Fanning was named "special assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense (chief of staff)".[11]

Fanning was appointed Acting Under Secretary of the Army and Chief Management Officer by President Obama on June 30, 2015. On September 18, 2015, the White House announced that President Barack Obama would nominate Fanning as Secretary of the Army,[12] and the President did so on November 3, 2015.[13] Fanning left that position on January 11, 2016, to concentrate on his confirmation, being succeeded in the temporary position by Patrick Murphy. The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee held Fanning's nomination hearing on January 21, 2016,[14] and approved his nomination on a voice vote on March 10, 2016,[15] though a hold was placed by Senator Pat Roberts, citing comments President Obama had made about closing the Guantanamo Bay prison.[16] Senators John McCain, chair of the Armed Services Committee, and Roberts argued about the nomination in the Senate in late April 2016.[17] McCain said: "What we're doing here is we're telling a nominee, who is totally qualified, totally, eminently qualified for the job, that that person cannot fulfill those responsibilities and take on that very important leadership post because of an unrelated issue. That is not the appropriate use of senatorial privilege."[18]

On May 17 Roberts told the Senate that he had received sufficient assurances from the Pentagon about Guantanamo and said: "My issue has never been with Mr. Fanning's character, his courage, or his capability. He will be a tremendous leader."[19] The United States Senate confirmed Fanning's nomination that day on a unanimous voice vote.[20] Fanning became the 22nd Secretary of the Army, the largest service branch of the U.S. military, and the first openly gay head of any service in the U.S. military.[21] Following Senate approval, Fanning thanked his now-husband Benjamin (Ben) Masri-Cohen for his "patience at home" during the confirmation process.[22]

With his appointment, he became the highest ranking openly gay member of the Department of Defense.[4] He was a member of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund from 2004 to 2007. He favors the adoption by the U.S. military of a policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. He has said: "I personally like to see these things in writing and codified." He expressed a preference for the establishment of such a policy by the Department of Defense rather than the Obama administration: "My view about government is you should always use those resources that are available to you first before you move up to the next level, so I think there are a number of things we can do inside this building for the Department of Defense". He also supports allowing openly transgender persons to serve in the military.[5]

In July 2016, Fanning served as the grand marshal of the San Diego Pride parade.[23]

In 2017, the Aerospace Industries Association selected Fanning to become its next President and CEO, succeeding former U.S. Army Lt. General David Melcher in that role.[1] He began his tenure on January 1, 2018.

Fanning and National Gallery of Art budget analyst Ben Masri-Cohen were privately married by Senator Cory Booker on December 19, 2018; days thereafter the couple held a New Year's Eve wedding celebration.[24]


  1. ^ a b Gould, Joe (September 18, 2017). "Former US Army Secretary Fanning to replace Melcher as AIA boss". Defense News. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  2. ^ Hearings before the Senate Armed Service Committee (PDF). Government Printing Office. February 28, 2013. pp. 529ff., 683–6. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
  3. ^ Schogol, Jeff (June 21, 2013). "Donley retires; Under Secretary Fanning becomes acting AF secretary". Air Force Times. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Bornstein, Daniel (August 7, 2013). "Obama taps alum. for top Air Force position". The Dartmouth. Archived from the original on August 11, 2012. Retrieved April 19, 2013.
  5. ^ a b Johnson, Chris (May 31, 2013). "Soaring at the Air Force". Washington Blade. Retrieved June 21, 2013.
  6. ^ Schogoll, Jeff (June 21, 2013). "Donley retires; Under Secretary Fanning becomes acting AF secretary". Military Times. Retrieved June 21, 2013.
  7. ^ "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts". White House. August 1, 2012. Retrieved April 19, 2013 – via National Archives.
  8. ^ "USecAF nominee testifies before Senate committee". U.S. Air Force. March 1, 2013. Archived from the original on May 2, 2013. Retrieved April 19, 2013.
  9. ^ Johnson, Chris (April 19, 2013). "Senate confirms gay official as Air Force under secretary". Washington Blade. Retrieved April 19, 2013.
  10. ^ "Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning sworn in". Stars & Stripes. June 21, 2013. Retrieved June 21, 2013.
  11. ^ "Senior Executive Service Announcements" (Press release). U.S. Department of Defense. March 17, 2015. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  12. ^ Greg Jaffe (September 18, 2015). "Obama to nominate first openly gay service secretary to lead the Army". Washington Post.
  13. ^ "Biography of Acting Secretary of the Army". U.S. Department of Defense. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
  14. ^ "Army Secretary Nominee Vows to Reverse Troop Cuts". Stars and Stripes. January 21, 2016.
  15. ^ Gould, Joe (March 10, 2016). "SASC Advances Fanning as Army Secretary". Defense News. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  16. ^ Johnson, Chris (March 10, 2016). "Senate panel approves 1st openly gay military service leader". Washington Blade. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  17. ^ Riley, John (May 3, 2016). "Senators McCain and Roberts clash over Eric Fanning's stalled nomination". MetroWeekly. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  18. ^ Shane III, Leo (April 29, 2016). "McCain blasts senator for blocking Army secretary confirmation". Military Times. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  19. ^ Koren, Marina (May 18, 2016). "The First Openly Gay Army Secretary in U.S. History". The Atlantic. Retrieved December 25, 2016.
  20. ^ "U.S. Senate backs Fanning as Army secretary". Reuters. May 17, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  21. ^ Tan, Michelle (September 18, 2015). "President nominates first openly gay Army secretary". Army Times. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  22. ^ Santoscoy, Carlos (May 20, 2016). "Eric Fanning Thanks Boyfriend For 'Patience At Home' During Confirmation Process". On Top Magazinr. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  23. ^ Steele, Jeanette (July 15, 2016). "Army secretary headlines S.D. Pride". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  24. ^ Colonna, Natalie (March 20, 2019). "Power Couples: Eric Fanning and Ben Masri-Cohen's New Year's Eve Wedding". Washingtonian. Retrieved November 3, 2019.

External resources

Political offices Preceded byErin Conaton United States Under Secretary of the Air Force 2013–2015 Succeeded byLisa Disbrow Preceded byMichael Donley United States Secretary of the Air ForceActing 2013 Succeeded byDeborah Lee James Preceded byBrad Carson United States Under Secretary of the ArmyActing 2015 Succeeded byThomas HawleyActing Preceded byJohn McHugh United States Secretary of the ArmyActing 2015–2016 Succeeded byPatrick MurphyActing Preceded byPatrick MurphyActing United States Secretary of the Army 2016–2017 Succeeded byRobert M. SpeerActing