WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will nominate Patrick Shanahan to be the secretary of defense, reflecting a vote of confidence in the job the former Boeing executive has done in running the Pentagon for just over four months,
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders made the announcement Thursday afternoon.
“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, in part, in a tweet.
Shanahan said he learned of Trump’s decision when he was at the White House earlier today.
“I called my mom, she was super happy, very excited,” he told Pentagon reporters.
Previously, he told TMN that if nominated and confirmed, he may choose not to live in the permanent defense secretary housing near the State Department. “I really like my apartment,” he said.
Shanahan has held the title of acting defense secretary since Jan. 1, stepping in after James Mattis resigned at the end of last year. Shanahan is the longest-serving acting defense secretary in Pentagon history, and his stint as “acting” was pushing up against various rules preventing an individual from serving in an active capacity for an extended period.
“I am honored by today’s announcement of President Trump’s intent to nominate,” Shanahan, 56, said later in a formal statement released by the Pentagon. “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.”
Not all were happy with the nomination.
“Patrick Shanahan hasn’t distinguished himself as Acting Secretary of Defense. It’s unclear why he deserves to be the permanent Secretary,” Rep. Reuben Gallegos (D-Ariz.) said in a statement on Thursday. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee, which does not have a vote on the nomination.
“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,” Gallegos said. “Our military service members and DOD civil servants deserve better leadership. I urge my Senate colleagues to reject Shanahan’s nomination.”
In many regards, Shanahan was the last person standing in Trump’s quest to find a successor to Mattis, who was highly regarded on Capitol Hill and among peers around the world. A whole string of “name” candidates surfaced in the media, most who quickly removed themselves from consideration.
One possible rival within the Pentagon, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, removed herself from contention by accepting the presidency of a university; she leaves her office this month.
His path to possible nomination was further cleared on April 25, when the Pentagon’s Inspector General said its probe showed Shanahan did not violate any rules governing conflicts of interest as deputy secretary or acting secretary.
Since becoming acting defense secretary, Shanahan has courted lawmakers who had announced skepticism of his ability to keep the top job. They included Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which will have the hearing and initial vote on the nomination. Inhofe has since said he supports Shanahan.
Shanahan had a key role in writing the National Defense Strategy and constructing the fiscal 2019 and 2020 defense budget proposals.
He has been a strong cheerleader of Trump’s key military moves, including pulling U.S. troops from Syria, shifting military funds to pay for a border wall and creating an independent Space Force.
Shanahan became deputy defense secretary in July 2017, confirmed by the Senate in a 92-7 vote. He had worked at Boeing for more than three decades, where he was senior vice president for supply chain and operations and was known as “Mr. Fix-it” for rescuing the floundering 787 Dreamliner aircraft program.