President Barack Obama has nominated Eric K. Fanning to be secretary of the Army.

If approved by the Senate, Fanning would become the first openly gay secretary of a military branch.

Fanning currently serves as the acting under secretary of the Army. He's previously served as Air Force under secretary, deputy under secretary of the Navy and deputy chief management officer of the Navy.

The nomination reflects a major shift for the Pentagon, which only four years ago dropped its “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy that prohibited openly gay troops from serving in the military. As a civilian leader, the policy did not extend to Fanning, 47.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT rights group, called Fanning “the perfect choice to lead the world's best-trained, most dedicated and formidable army.”

Fanning's career in public service has included stints at the White House, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the House Armed Services Committee. He's also a former board member of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which works to elect openly LGBT candidates.