President Donald Trump announced Sunday he was ousting Secretary of Defense James Mattis from his role two months early, reportedly frustrated with Mattis’s resignation over the president’s sudden decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.
Patrick Shanahan, the deputy secretary of defense, will be appointed as acting secretary of defense beginning January 1, 2019.
The move to oust Mattis and elevate Shanahan has resurfaced the undersecretary’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in the summer of 2017, in which the late-Arizona GOP Senator John McCain ridiculed the then-Boeing executive and nearly blocked his confirmation.
The root of McCain’s concerns with the defense contractor executive were whether Shanahan supported offering Ukraine military assistance to help fight against Russian-backed separatists. McCain, who was then chairman of the committee, offered a stinging rebuke to Shanahan’s written answers on the matter that were provided to the committee prior to the hearing.
“I have to have confidence that the fox is not going to be put back into the henhouse,” McCain told Shanahan. He suggested that placing an executive from one of the largest military defense contractors, a man with no prior military experience, in such a powerful Pentagon role could be damaging to the agency.
Shanahan had been with Boeing, a company that completes military contracts for the Pentagon each year totaling billions of dollars, since 1986.