- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 9, 2019

President Trump intends to nominate Patrick M. Shanahan as his permanent defense secretary, elevating him from an acting role, the White House said Wednesday.

“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,” said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Mr. Trump appointed Mr. Shanahan to the acting position in December as a replacement for his initial defense secretary, James Mattis, who resigned after clashing with the president over troop policy in Syria.

Mr. Shanahan was informed of the nomination Thursday afternoon at the White House, shortly before Mrs. Sanders issued the formal announcement.

“I’m very excited,” he told reporters at the Pentagon, shortly after the nomination was unveiled.

“There are real events that happen every day, so you have to spin a lot of plates” to manage the laundry list of U.S. national defense priorities, he said of the challenges facing the department he is now tapped to lead.

Mr. Shanahan’s top priority as Washington’s top defense official will be to enact the administration’s National Defense Strategy, focusing U.S. efforts on the growing threats from China, Russia and Iran, he said before a meeting at the Pentagon with Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary.

“Biggest challenge [will be] balancing it all,” Mr. Shanahan said. “For me, it is about practicing selectful neglect, so we can stay focused on the future but not ignore a lot of the emerging, really important issues that pop up day to day that you do not really plan for.”

On Iran specifically, Mr. Shanahan said he discussed U.S. options on Tehran’s threats to break away from certain tenets of the Obama-era nuclear deal that the U.S. has pulled out of.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that if European signatories to the nuclear deal could not readjust the restraints put on Iran’s nuclear program in the next two months, the country would restart efforts to enrich fissile material to weapons-grade levels. The Iranian leader’s comments came days after the Pentagon ordered the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group into the Persian Gulf, in response to an imminent threat to U.S. forces from Tehran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would outline the Trump administration’s response, he said.

“The statement is very clear on how we will hold people accountable” in Tehran, should the country break away from certain elements of the nuclear accord, Mr. Shanahan said.

Mr. Shanahan’s nomination Thursday drew praise from Sen. Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and Senate Armed Services Committee chief.

“We need a confirmed leader at the Department and, after working with him closely over the last few months, I welcome his selection,” he said in a statement, adding he looked forward to Mr. Shanahan’s confirmation hearing before the Senate panel.

Mr. Inhofe had publicly questioned Mr. Shanahan’s qualifications to take the reins at the Pentagon prior to his nomination, suggesting the White House explore other options.

Bur Rep. Ruben Gallego, Arizona Democrat and House Armed Services Committee member, questioned the White House pick, saying Mr. Shanahan has not proven himself ready to take the position.

“Pat Shanahan hasn’t distinguished himself as Acting Secretary of Defense. It’s unclear why he deserves to be the permanent Secretary,” he tweeted, citing his support for the White House-mandated border security mission and his mishandling of a Pentagon investigation into the deaths of four Green Berets in a botched U.S. special operations mission in Niger.

“Our military and DoD civil service deserve better leadership,” Mr. Gallego tweeted, urging senators to block Mr. Shanahan’s nomination.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and a member of the Senate defense panel, expressed no doubts over the White House pick, calling Mr. Shanahan the “logical choice” to head up the Pentagon.

“He has demonstrated to me his detailed understanding that a strong, modern, and well-trained military is essential in a dangerous and complex world,” Mr. Graham tweeted Thursday.

⦁ Lauren Meier contributed to this report.

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