Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will become President Donald Trump’s new acting defense secretary, taking the place of James Mattis who will be leaving the administration earlier than planned, although he has almost no military or diplomatic experience.
Shanahan will take the helm at the Pentagon until a nominee for new defense secretary is named by President Trump. In the meantime, Shanahan will carry out Trump’s orders of withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, and possibly Afghanistan.
The interim defense secretary is a former corporate executive with no experience whatsoever in international affairs or counterterrorism. As Mattis’ deputy at the Pentagon, he almost exclusively handled internal reform, budget issues and the military branch proposed by the President – the Space Force.
However, CNN reports that there have been other Pentagon chiefs before who have taken the role without having any previous military service.
According to a senior administration official, Shanahan had been essentially “running the building” while Mattis focused on policy, saying that “there is probably nobody who knows the inner workings of the Pentagon more than Pat.”
Shanahan was confirmed last year by the Senate in a 92-7 vote which did not go smoothly. The late Arizona Republican Senator John McCain was disappointed with Shanahan’s answers on foreign policy and threatened as a result to block his nomination.
McCain also raised concerns over Shanahan’s background as a former Boeing executive.
“I have to have confidence that the fox is not going to be put back into the henhouse,” McCain said at the time, expressing worry that someone employed at one of the “big five” defense contractors would take on a leadership role at the Pentagon.
Shanahan has recused himself from all Boeing issues and in his ethics agreement said he planned to divest from his Boeing-related financial interests.