New hand at the Pentagon helm

Julia LeDoux
January 02, 2019 - 10:02 am

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick J. Shanahan released a New Year’s Day memo stressing that the DoD under President Donald Trump remains focused on safeguarding the nation.

“Our foundational strength lies in the remarkable men and women who volunteer to serve our country and protect our freedoms while making immense personal sacrifice,” he noted. 

Shanahan replaced former Defense Secretary James Mattis on Jan. 1. Mattis resigned Dec. 20 following Trump’s announcement that American forces would pull out of Syria. He initially planned to leave office in February, but on Dec. 23, Trump announced the retired Marine general’s departure date had been moved up and that Shanahan, a former Boeing executive who served as Mattis’ No. 2 for more than 17 months, would be acting SecDef until a permanent replacement can be named. 

Sgt. Amber Smith/Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs

Then Secretary of Defense James Mattis, right, is pictured during the swearing-in ceremony of Patrick J. Shanahan as Deputy Defense Secretary in July of 2017.

“Our Department’s leadership, civilian and military, remains in the best possible hands,” Mattis wrote in a Dec. 31 farewell message to DoD staff. "I am confident that each of you remains undistracted from our sworn mission to support and defend the Constitution while protecting our way of life. “

In his memo, Shanahan wrote that he has “deep respect for Secretary Mattis’ lifetime of service and it has been a privilege to serve as his deputy secretary.”

Shanahan also said that the DoD continues to be one of the nation’s bedrock institutions.

“As acting secretary of defense, I now look forward to working with President Trump to carry out his vision alongside strong leaders including the service secretaries, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the combatant commanders, and senior personnel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense,” he wrote.

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