On Sunday, Dec. 23, President Donald Trump announced Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is slated to leave his current position on Jan. 1, 2019. This announcement comes three days after Mattis' resignation over a difference in policy views with President Trump. The White House did not respond to Elite Daily's request for comment regarding Mattis' reason for his departure. Though Mattis wrote in a resignation letter that he was planning to leave at the end of February 2019 to guarantee an orderly transition, Trump announced that his replacement, Patrick Shanahan, Acting Secretary of Defense, would start much sooner than that. With that, you might be wondering: Who is Patrick Shanahan? Trump's pick for the acting secretary of defense will begin his new role at the start of 2019. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on Mattis' early departure, but did not hear back at the time of publication.
In a tweet announcing the Shanahan's new role on the morning of Dec. 23, Trump wrote:
I am pleased to announce that our very talented Deputy Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, will assume the title of Acting Secretary of Defense starting January 1, 2019. Patrick has a long list of accomplishments while serving as Deputy, & previously Boeing. He will be great!
The tweet served as Trump's official announcement of Mattis' exit date and temporary replacement. The White House did not immediately reply to Elite Daily's request for comment regarding how long Shanahan might serve, and whether Trump intends to find someone else to fill the role full-time.
Patrick M. Shanahan currently serves as the Deputy Secretary of Defense and has occupied that role since July 19, 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Defense website. According to the Department of Defense, the deputy secretary of defense's main role is to manage the defense budget, manage the departments day-to-day activities, and "execute the defense secretary's priorities." During Shanahan's confirmation hearing in June 2017, John McCain threatened to block his confirmation because Shanahan didn't provide a clear answer as to whether he would support providing lethal weapons to Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, per CNN. Ultimately, Shanahan was confirmed by the Senate 92-7.
In a tweet following the President's announcement on Sunday, Dec. 23, a Defense Department spokeswoman shared a statement from the official Department of Defense Twitter account, speaking to Mattis' exit plans:
The Secretary of Defense serves at the pleasure of the President.
#SecDef Mattis will work with Deputy Shanahan and department leadership to ensure the #DOD remains focused on the defense of the nation during this transition.
It appears Mattis is ready to work with Shanahan to provide for a smooth transition, despite his earlier than expected departure.
When it comes to current Deputy Secretary of Defense Shanahan, the soon-to-be acting defense secretary was formerly an executive at Boeing for over 30 years, holding roles as senior vice president of Commercial Airplane Programs and vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, per the DOD website. A Washington state native, he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington and went on to pursue further studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he received two degrees in mechanical engineering and business.
Because the appointment is so recent, not much is known much about Shanahan's plans around foreign policy and foreign affairs, but in October 2018, Shanahan discussed his vision for the DOD's future with Defense News. He told Defense News, "The Pentagon should focus on outcomes and outputs — our performance. This focus on performance should drive us to field unmatched lethality, execute on our modernization plans and achieve this affordably."
Mattis' resignation comes after the Defense Secretary clashed with Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria and Afghanistan and declare victory over the Islamic State. According to the The Washington Post, Mattis said Trump deserved a leader in the Pentagon who "better aligned" with his views on Syria, Afghanistan, and "other subjects." The White House did not respond to Elite Daily's request for comment on the matter. At the end of his resignation letter, Mattis added, "I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million service members and 732,079 DOD civilians. I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform."
With Shanahan now announced as Mattis' current replacement, and Mattis reiterating his commitment to assisting his successor in the move, there is hope for an uneventful change. Yet, it remains to be seen what changes will come with Shanahan's appointment as Acting Defense Secretary on Jan. 1, 2019.