President Trump will nominate acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to stay on the job permanently, the White House announced Thursday. Shanahan has led the Pentagon since Secretary Jim Mattis stepped down in December in protest of Trump’s policies, in particular the president’s decision to pull troops out of Syria. Shanahan, during his brief tenure, has been proven more than willing to flatter Trump’s most impulsive foreign policy instincts, including supporting the president’s deployment of troops on along the Mexican border and using Pentagon funds to pay for a border wall. “We are not the Department of No,” Shanahan told Pentagon officials in response to Trump’s desire to establish a Space Force.
That sort of attitude is music to Trump’s ears. Critics of the nomination, however, point out that the 56-year-old former Boeing executive does not have the necessary foreign policy experience to occupy the country’s most sensitive Cabinet position. Shanahan was a largely unknown deputy defense secretary who was brought in because of his private sector chops earned over three decades in the commercial aviation business at Boeing, where he helped rescue the stalled production of the 787 Dreamliner.
“[Shanahan’s] nomination had been pending during the ethics investigation and after a second deadly crash since October of a Boeing commercial jet that raised questions about the manufacturer’s close relationships with federal officials,” the New York Times notes. “The inspector general’s report, released last month, cleared Mr. Shanahan of impropriety but also cited numerous meetings at the Pentagon during which Defense Department officials said he had promoted his experiences solving production problems on the Dreamliner as techniques that should be copied by the government.”
“Although a few members of the Senate have rhetorically roughed up Shanahan, he has not generated broad opposition during his months of auditioning for the nomination,” the Associated Press reports. “Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, butted heads with Shanahan over the administration’s Syria policy, but that confrontation quickly faded after the White House partially reversed course by agreeing to keep a few hundred troops in Syria rather than withdrawing all 2,000.”