Patrick Shanahan may soon be able to remove the “Acting” part of his title, as the White House announced May 9 he has been picked to officially fill the defense secretary position.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced in a Thursday tweet that President Donald Trump intends to nominate Shanahan to be the Pentagon’s leader. Shanahan has been serving in an acting capacity since Jan. 1.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan speaks Sept. 19 at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo: Defense Department

“Acting Secretary Shanahan has proven over the last several months that he is beyond qualified to lead the Department of Defense, and he will continue to do an excellent job,” Sanders said.

It is not clear when Trump will actually submit the nomination to Congress. In a Thursday statement, Shanahan said he is honored by Trump’s intent to nominate him.

“If confirmed by the Senate, I will continue the aggressive implementation of our National Defense Strategy,” he said. “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.”

The notice comes less than one month after Shanahan was cleared of any potential ethics violations by the Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

The Inspector General’s office launched a probe March 15 to determine whether the former Boeing [BA] executive had made any disparaging comments toward other defense contractors that would violate his ethics agreements, and concluded in an April 25 report that he was clear of any conflicts of interest (Defense Daily, April 25).

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), said in a Thursday statement he was pleased Trump will nominate Shanahan to be the Pentagon’s top civilian.

“We need a confirmed leader at the Department and, after working with him closely over the last few months, I welcome his selection,” Inhofe said. “I look forward to talking with him at his confirmation hearing about how we can work together to implement the National Defense Strategy and care for our service members, veterans and military families.”

Since he joined the Pentagon as deputy secretary of defense in July 2017, Shanahan has played a pivotal role in the development of new legislation to stand up a Space Force and other space-related agencies within the Defense Department.

Since becoming acting defense secretary following Jim Mattis’ removal from office by Trump last December, he has coordinated the department’s response to requests to send troops to the southern border to support Department of Homeland Security operations and to address increasing tensions with countries including Iran and Venezuela.

Shanahan has also previously served as vice president of Supply Chain and Operations at Boeing. He holds a Master of Science degree in engineering and a Master of Business Administration degree from the Massachusetts Institution of Technology.

SASC members have been mixed on Shanahan as official defense secretary in the past, mostly divided along party lines (Defense Daily, Jan. 3).

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee who previously criticized the Trump administration’s decision in February to pull troops out of Syria, called Shanahan “the logical choice” for next defense secretary in a Thursday statement.

“I hope and expect that he will advocate for defense policies that lead from the front, not from behind,” he said. “I also hope and expect he will make it clear to America’s adversaries that we mean what we say, and that our allies see us as a reliable partner.”

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who chairs the SASC Strategic Forces Subcommittee, was a bit more measured in her statement on Shanahan’s nomination Thursday.

“I have enjoyed working with Acting Secretary Shanahan over the past two years on a strong national defense. I appreciate the time he has taken to build relationships with members of the U.S. Senate,” she said.

“I look forward to carefully reviewing his nomination as the confirmation process moves forward,” she added.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), a Marine Corps combat veteran and member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), was less complimentary in a statement Thursday.

“It’s unclear why [Shanahan] deserves to be the permanent Secretary,” he said, criticizing Shanahan’s response to a deadly 2017 attack in Niger, during which four U.S. service members and five Nigerien personnel were killed, and for following along with Trump’s request to use Pentagon funds for border wall construction, as well as for standing by “while critical positions remain unstaffed.”

“I urge my Senate colleagues to reject Shanahan’s nomination,” Gallego said.