Trump to Nominate Patrick Shanahan for Defense Secretary Role

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., and Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)/Chief Financial Officer David L. Norquist testify before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee on the fiscal 2020 Department of Defense budget request in Washington, D.C., on May 8, 2019. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., and Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)/Chief Financial Officer David L. Norquist testify before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee on the fiscal 2020 Department of Defense budget request in Washington, D.C., on May 8, 2019. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

The longest-serving acting defense secretary will be nominated to do the job permanently, White House officials announced Thursday.

President Donald Trump intends to nominate Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing leader, to be the next defense secretary, a role he's filled since Jim Mattis quit the job in December in protest of the president's policies.

Shanahan said he's honored by the announcement and, if confirmed, "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," he said in a statement.

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Shanahan has demonstrated his ability to lead the Pentagon, Trump's press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said in a statement Wednesday.

"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," her statement reads. "[He] 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."

Sanders made the announcement about Shanahan's pending nomination via Twitter.

Shanahan, who became Mattis' deputy defense secretary in July 2017, doesn't appear to intend to stray too far from the new national defense strategy, which he helped create. Shanahan oversaw other recent Pentagon reforms, including cyber, nuclear and missile-defense reviews and the creation of a new joint center on artificial intelligence.

Trump has long been expected to nominate to Shanahan to serve as the Pentagon's next civilian leader. But an investigation just weeks into his tenure as acting defense secretary slowed the announcement as officials looked into allegations that he was using his position to promote his former employer while disparaging Boeing's competitors.

Last month, the Defense Department's Inspector General's office released a 47-page report on the probe, which found that Shanahan fully complied with his ethics agreements and obligations regarding the aerospace company and its competitors.

Shanahan, who was on Boeing's executive council after working there for three decades, served as vice president and general manager of the company's 787 commercial Dreamliner program. He made references to that aircraft "in almost every meeting," Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told investigators.

"[But] I never really took those issues as being any kind of an ethical problem," she said. "... It was more comparing his experience and criticizing a contractor that he felt wasn't getting the supply chain right."

Shanahan also spoke negatively of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, but witnesses said that's common among Pentagon leaders.

"Most of the people in the building" have said critical things about the F-35 program, said Robert Daigle, director of the Defense Department's cost-assessment and program evaluation.

When interviewed, Shanahan told investigators he called the program "f---ed up," not the aircraft. The Lightning II aircraft itself is awesome, he said, but the aircraft are grounded too often and there have been many expensive retrofits.

While at Boeing, Shanahan also oversaw development of the Apache and Chinook helicopters and the MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft systems.

Trump's plan to have Shanahan serve in the defense secretary role permanently has been met with mixed reactions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Shanahan must be confirmed by the Senate to serve in the role permanently, and he appears to have the support of the Republican majority.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he welcome's Trump's selection.

"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.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the committee, said Shanahan has demonstrated he's capable of "managing the needs of our armed forces and protecting our national security."

However, Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat and Iraq War veteran, is urging members of the Senate to reject Shanahan's nomination. Troops deserve better leadership, he said.

"Shanahan has bumbled the Niger investigation, stood by while critical positions remain unstaffed, and is the man at the helm for the Department of Defense's unconstitutional theft of resources for Trump's dumb border wall."

Shanahan has master's degrees in engineering and business administration.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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