Clock ticks louder on deadline for Shanahan nomination to meet legal requirements

Clock ticks louder on deadline for Shanahan nomination to meet legal requirements

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan meets with members of the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base in South Korea on June 3. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

WASHINGTON — One month after President Donald Trump said he would nominate Patrick Shanahan to become defense secretary, the paperwork for the nomination has not been sent to the Senate — and the clock is ticking louder.

Shanahan became acting defense secretary on Jan. 1, and according to the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, he has 210 days to be nominated for the job.

That falls near the end of July. If he is not nominated, under the law his term as “acting defense secretary” would end.

On May 9, President Donald Trump said he would nominate Shanahan for the job.

What happens if the nomination is not submitted by the deadline is unclear.

He could return to being deputy defense secretary, a position to which he has been confirmed, and run the Pentagon from that job. That would set off a reverse domino effect, as others have moved up to fill the empty slots — also on an acting basis.

No one suspects anything is amiss with Shanahan’s nomination. Instead it is likely one more example of the Trump administration’s slow approach to filling positions, in part because of the president’s stated proclivity to keep people as “acting” in top positions.

Congress is scheduled to be on recess the first week in July. They are to return the following week and finish out the month. August is usually a full month of recess.

From the start, the Trump administration was well behind the pace of the Obama and Bush administrations in appointments for significant positions.

Pentagon officials had no comment on the delay.

A similar situation is playing out now for another individual in an acting Pentagon position.

Lisa Hershman became acting chief management officer (CMO) on Dec. 1, 2018, which is considered the No. 3 job in the Pentagon’s civilian chain of command. Her clock runs out on June 29.

If the Senate does not receive a nomination for Hershman by June 29, she will have to stop serving as acting CMO. Should she receive that nomination, she can continue to serve in the acting capacity, but in theory with limited powers. Should she not receive that nomination by June 29, she resumes being the deputy CMO with the powers she had prior to Dec. 1, 2018.

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