- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan withdrew his name from consideration to be the next permanent Pentagon chief on Tuesday, saying the confirmation process is proving too difficult for his family.

President Trump said that Army Secretary Mark Esper will step in to lead the Pentagon in an acting capacity.

In a statement, Mr. Shanahan said that continuing with the process would be devastating to his children and would force them to relive traumatic personal experiences dating back nearly a decade. The FBI reportedly is probing domestic violence incidents involving Mr. Shanahan, his then-wife and his son, and that lengthy federal investigation had been holding up the confirmation process.

“The confirmation process should focus on securing our nation against threats, readiness and the future of our military, and ensuring the highest quality care and support for service members and their families,” Mr. Shanahan said in a statement. “After having been confirmed for deputy secretary less than two years ago, it is unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way in the course of this process.

“I believe my continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family’s life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal,” he continued. “Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority. I would welcome the opportunity to be secretary of defense, but not at the expense of being a good father.”

In one reported incident, Mr. Shanahan’s then-wife punched him in the face. In a separate incident, his son attacked his mother with a baseball bat.

Mr. Shanahan detailed those experiences in an interview with The Washington Post this week.

As those details began to emerge, the president on Tuesday announced that Mr. Shanahan was withdrawing his name from consideration.

“Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who has done a wonderful job, has decided not to go forward with his confirmation process so that he can devote more time to his family,” the president tweeted. “I thank Pat for his outstanding service and will be naming Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, to be the new Acting Secretary of Defense. I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job!”

The unexpected announcement will bring about a change in leadership at the Pentagon just as military tensions between the U.S. and Iran escalate. Hours before withdrawing his name, Mr. Shanahan had announced that an additional 1,000 American troops would be deployed to the Middle East to counter an increasingly belligerent Iran.

Mr. Shanahan, a former top executive at Boeing, was tapped by Mr. Trump for the job more than a month ago, but Senate leaders were still waiting Tuesday to receive the formal nomination paperwork.

As Mr. Shanahan’s nomination languished, speculation mounted that the president could scrap the pick and instead tap Mr. Esper for the post.

The Army secretary and former senior Raytheon executive dodged the issue when asked by The Washington Times last week.

“I have no comment on any of that,” he told The Times immediately after a speech to defense industry leaders in Arlington, Virginia. “I’m very privileged and pleased to be the Army secretary.”

Lawmakers praised the selection of Mr. Esper but said the White House should act quickly to find a permanent defense secretary.

“However well-qualified Secretary Esper may be, it is critical that the President nominate, and that the Senate confirm, a permanent Secretary of Defense as quickly as possible. This job should be filled in a matter of a few weeks, not months,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, Texas Republican and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

Just as they’d done with Mr. Shanahan, critics quickly took aim at Mr. Esper over his ties to the defense industry.

“I’m not thrilled that the next acting defense secretary is a former Raytheon executive,” said Mandy Smithberger, Director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight. “As tensions increase over Iran, we need a permanent secretary of defense who has the credibility necessary to make sure the Pentagon is acting in the best interests of our national security, not what’s in the best interest of contractors.”

Mr. Shanahan was confirmed as assistant defense secretary in July 2017. He took over as acting Pentagon chief on Jan. 1 following the sudden resignation of James Mattis.

Mr. Mattis stepped down amid deep disagreements with the White House over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.

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