In contrast to now former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, new Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan pledged Tuesday that he would work with the military leadership to carry out President Donald Trump's policy agenda on national security issues without pushback.
In a three-paragraph statement for release early Tuesday, Shanahan twice stressed that there would be no daylight between him and Trump on the Syrian withdrawal or other issues that led to Mattis' resignation.
Shanahan said that he was looking forward to "working with President Trump to carry out his vision alongside strong leaders including the service secretaries, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the combatant commanders, and senior personnel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense."
Shanahan said again that "Under the direction of President Trump, the Department of Defense remains focused on safeguarding our nation." But he also paid tribute to Mattis who resigned on Dec. 20, a day after Trump made the surprise announcement that the estimated 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria would be withdrawn.
"We have deep respect for Secretary Mattis' lifetime of service, and it has been a privilege to serve as his deputy secretary," said Shanahan, a former Boeing executive who did not serve in the military and has little experience in foreign affairs or dealing with allies.
Shanahan said he would be relying on the troops to carry out his new responsibilities by remaining vigilant and steadfast in their sworn duties to service.
"The Department of Defense continues to be one of our nation's bedrock institutions," Shanahan said, and "our foundational strength lies in the remarkable men and women who volunteer to serve our country and protect our freedoms, while making immense personal sacrifice."
In his farewell message to the troops Monday, Mattis urged them to persevere in their duties, and appeared to hint at the turmoil caused by his resignation.
"Our Department is proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult," Mattis said in the three-paragraph statement in which he stressed that cooperation with allies and partnered local forces was vital to protecting the nation.
"So keep the faith in our country and hold fast, alongside our allies, aligned against our foes," the 68-year-old Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, said in taking leave after more than 40 years in uniform and nearly two years as Defense Secretary.
Shanahan, 56, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering and a Masters in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He joined Boeing in 1986 and had management positions in Boeing Missile Defense Systems and in the 737, 747, 767, 777 and 787 commercial airline programs. President Donald Trump nominated him to become Deputy Defense Secretary in March 2017 and he was confirmed by the Senate in April.
Via Twitter, Trump has suggested that Shanahan's service as Acting Secretary could be lengthy but he has also said there is no lack of candidates for the job. It was not immediately clear whether the president would consider retaining Shanahan for the permanent post.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com