Trump to Nominate Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to Permanent Position

President Donald Trump listens as acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speaks during an expanded bilateral meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, April 2, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Trump intends to nominate Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to take on the role on a permanent basis, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced in a statement Thursday.

“Based upon his outstanding service to the Country and his demonstrated ability to lead, President Trump intends to nominate Patrick M. Shanahan to be the Secretary of Defense,” Sanders said.

“Acting Secretary Shanahan has served in high-profile positions, including the Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice President of Supply Chain and Operations at Boeing. He holds a Master of Science degree in engineering and a Master of Business Administration degree from the Massachusetts Institution of Technology,” she said.

“Acting Secretary Shanahan has proven over the last several months that he is beyond qualified to lead the Department of Defense, and he will continue to do an excellent job,” she added.

Shanahan said in a statement about the nomination:

I am honored by today’s announcement of President Trump’s intent to nominate. If confirmed by the Senate, I will continue the aggressive implementation of our National Defense Strategy. I remain committed to modernizing the force so our remarkable Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines have everything they need to keep our military lethal and our country safe.

Shanahan, 56, was confirmed as deputy defense secretary in July 2017. Trump tapped him after 18 months on the job to take over as acting defense secretary after former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis resigned in December 2018.

His nomination was put on hold until the end of a Pentagon inspector general investigation into reports he favored his former employer Boeing. However, the investigation recently concluded he did not favor Boeing during his time at the Pentagon.

The nomination comes amid several critical tests for the acting defense secretary. Shanahan was slated to travel to Europe last week but canceled his trip so that he could monitor an unraveling situation in Venezuela.

In recent days, he also signed off on sending an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East, amid intelligence showing Iranian threats to U.S. forces in the region.

He now must also help the White House contend with a difficult moment with North Korea, which has fired three short-range missiles over the last week.

Shanahan, unlike many of his predecessors, has no military experience. However, he has worked in the defense and aerospace industry for three decades, and became known as the “fix-it guy” for Boeing.

Trump has seen Shanahan’s private sector experience as an asset — particularly as he looks to cut down on waste in the Pentagon’s budget.

“Our friend Shanahan is a good man. He’s done a great job. He’s a good buyer. I wanted somebody that could buy. Because I’m giving them a lot of money and I don’t want it to be wasted,” Trump told reporters during his trip to Iraq last year.

“Shanahan was at Boeing. Did great at Boeing. Was there for a long time. Boeing is a hell of a company. He did a great job. Very responsible for the success for a certain plane — the Dreamliner. He’s a respected man.”

Shanahan has also taken on a weighty portfolio during his time as deputy defense secretary. He has spearheaded turning the president’s desire for a Space Force into a reality, which has helped him develop a good working relationship with the White House and vice president.

He also helped craft the National Defense Strategy formulated under Mattis, which shifted the Pentagon’s focus from terrorism to great power competition with China and Russia. He has also been responsible for making sure the military was implementing it.

Shanahan got off to a rocky start with some senators earlier this year but appears to have assuaged their various concerns. He was confirmed by the Senate as deputy defense secretary by a 92-7 vote.

In a positive sign for his prospective confirmation, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said he was “pleased” with Shanahan’s nomination in a statement.

“I’m pleased that President Trump will nominate Patrick Shanahan to be the next Secretary of Defense. We need a confirmed leader at the Department and, after working with him closely over the last few months, I welcome his selection,” he said.

“I look forward to talking with him at his confirmation hearing about how we can work together to implement the National Defense Strategy and care for our service members, veterans and military families,” he said.

Shanahan grew up in Laurelhurst, a suburb of Seattle, Washington, according to the Seattle Times. His father, Mike Shanahan, was a Vietnam veteran and Bronze Star recipient and later served in law enforcement for over 25 years.

Shanahan keeps a framed photo of his father in his office.

“He taught his boys to love their country and value its freedoms,” he said at his confirmation hearing last year. “He taught us to treat people fairly, respect law and order, and the importance of protecting the community.”

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