President Trump could soon name an official new secretary of defense, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) leader suggested Feb. 12.
As Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan travels to the Middle East and Europe on his first overseas trip since taking over the department Jan. 1, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) strongly hinted to reporters at a media event on Capitol Hill that the president plans to name another individual to the position.
“I’ve had a lot of discussions” with Trump on the matter, Inhofe told the Defense Writers Group. “I still think that’s a work in progress that we’ve got to get done.”
Shanahan, who was confirmed as deputy defense secretary in July 2017, became acting defense secretary following the Dec. 20 resignation of former Secretary Jim Mattis, whom Inhofe called “really a close friend.” Inhofe added that he and Trump first had “a serious talk” about potential candidates for a new defense secretary shortly after Mattis’ resignation.
Amid concerns from other SASC members that Shanahan’s past as a Boeing [BA] executive could cause issues if he remained the leader of the Pentagon (Defense Daily, Jan. 3) Inhofe said there is going to be a “a built-in suspicion” of “anyone who has any kind of a background … regardless of what company it is.”
He noted that he could become more suspicious of Shanahan’s motives “depending on how he answers his questions,” but then added that he did not believe the committee would “get to that point.”
Asked to clarify whether he meant that Shanahan would not come before the committee for a nomination hearing, Inhofe said, “I probably shouldn’t say that.”
Acting officials have a 210-day limit, per the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998. However, the Defense Department has indicated that Shanahan could remain in place “indefinitely,” multiple outlets reported in January.
Inhofe said he would not like to set a deadline for the president to name a new candidate.