Mark Esper
Mark EsperReuters

The Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm President Donald Trump's pick for secretary of defense, Mark Esper.

Esper was approved by an overwhelming majority of 90 to 8. He becomes the Pentagon’s first permanent chief since James Mattis stepped down in January.

While he received broad bipartisan backing, several Democratic presidential hopefuls including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren voted against Esper, reported CNN.

Esper, a former army officer and West Point classmate of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also worked as a senior staffer on Capitol Hill.

Esper will be taking over at the Pentagon amid a series of global challenges, including mounting tensions with Iran over several incidents in the Strait of Hormuz.

The US military said on Thursday it had downed an Iranian drone that had posed a threat to the USS Boxer. On Friday, Iranian forces seized a UK-flagged tanker.

challenge of confronting Russia and China while also continuing to oversee counter-terrorism campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Esper took over as acting defense secretary in June when Patrick Shanahan abruptly quit after having served as acting secretary since Mattis departed.

Mattis resigned in December after two years in the job after a series of policy disagreements with Trump, climaxing with Trump's decision to pull US troops out of Syria.