Trump nominates Patrick Shanahan as defense secretary

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US President Donald Trump on Thursday nominated Patrick Shanahan — already the longest serving acting defense secretary in US history — as Pentagon chief on a permanent basis.

The decision, which ends months of speculation over Shanahan’s place in the administration, comes after the former Boeing executive was cleared of alleged ethics violations.

Shanahan has been in the role on a temporary basis for more than four months, since James Mattis resigned over Trump’s surprise announcement of a rapid withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and Syria.

“Based on his outstanding service to the country and his demonstrated ability to lead, President Trump intends to nominate Patrick M. Shanahan to be secretary of defense,” a White House statement said.

List of problems to solve

Before taking on the role, Shanahan spent three decades at Boeing where he earned the nickname “Mr. Fix-It” for putting the problem-riddled Dreamliner project back on track.

Among the challenges he now faces are growing tensions with Iran, renewed missile tests by North Korea and questions about how the US should handle Venezuela’s economic and political crisis.

“I am honored by today’s announcement of President Trump’s intent to nominate,” he said in a statement.

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Shanahan said that, if his appointment were confirmed by the Senate, he would continue the “aggressive implementation” of the  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,” said Shanahan.

Accused of favoritism

Shanahan was previously number two at the Pentagon under Mattis and faced accusations that he violated Defense Department ethics rules with his support for Boeing.

He was alleged to have denigrated the company’s competitors, in particular the company Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the F-35 joint strike fighter.

Read more: Opinion: Jim Mattis’ exit leaves Donald Trump surrounded by yes-men

However, the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office said Shanahan had not run afoul of ethics rules.

“We determined that Mr. Shanahan fully complied with his ethics agreements and his ethical obligations regarding Boeing and its competitors,” the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office said in a statement.

The nomination still requires confirmation from the Senate where, although Shanahan is expected to face few hurdles, questions may arise over a lack of political and military experience.

rc/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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