McCain Rips Nominee for Deputy Defense Secretary

  • FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2016 file photo, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
    FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2016 file photo, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
  • Patrick M. Shanahan (Photo: Boeing)
    Patrick M. Shanahan (Photo: Boeing)

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on Tuesday kept up his tradition of giving a hard time to nominees for the post of deputy defense secretary.

The latest to feel McCain's wrath was Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan, known as "Mr. Fixit" around the boardroom, who has been recommended by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and nominated by President Donald Trump to replace Bob Work in the No. 2 position at the Pentagon.

In February 2014, McCain charged that Work was not up-to-date on problems with the Littoral Combat Ship program and put a temporary hold on his nomination. The hold was later lifted.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday, McCain, the committee's chairman, threatened to do the same to Shanahan. He charged that nominee gave evasive and uninformed answers on policy questions about Ukraine.

McCain noted that, in responses to written questions from the committee, Shanahan had dodged on whether he favored providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine to fend off Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Shanahan said in his written response, "I would have to know more about the issue."

"Your response to that question was frankly very disappointing," McCain told Shanahan. "It's not good enough."

When asked if he would like to be more definitive, Shanahan quickly said that he would support defensive weaponry for Ukraine. That sent McCain off on a three-minute lecture.

"I'm glad to hear you've changed your answer, but it's still disturbing to me after all these years that you would say that you have to look at the issue," the senator said. "Have you not been aware of the issue? Have you not been aware of the actions of the Senate Armed Services Committee? Have you not been aware of the thousands of people that have been killed by Vladimir Putin? Have you missed all that in your duties at one of the major defense corporations in this country?

"I've got to tell you it's very disturbing. Not a good beginning. Not a good beginning," McCain said. "Do not do that again, Mr. Shanahan, or I will not take your name up for a vote before this committee. Am I perfectly clear?"

Shanahan said that McCain had been "very clear."

Work, a retired Marine artillery colonel, is a holdover from the Obama administration who was asked by Mattis to stay on in the top management post as deputy defense secretary until a replacement could be found.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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