President Donald Trump's Acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, who is slammed by critics as an embodiment of the military-industrial complex, could assume the role of the Pentagon chief pending Senate confirmation. The move, however, is slated to result in destabilization of the country's national security as the president looks to position an executive with no foreign policy and military experience as the head of the United States Department of Defense.
The White House, last week, announced that President Trump will nominate Shanahan, who has spent just over four months as the acting secretary of defense, for the permanent top defense position.
“Based upon his outstanding service to the Country and his demonstrated ability to lead, President Trump intends to nominate Patrick M. Shanahan to be the Secretary of Defense,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Thursday said. “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.”
A former top Boeing executive who spent 30 years at the company, Shanahan's nomination comes across as his reward for resonating Trump's policies — on China and Southern US border — ever since he took over the Pentagon position on January 1, 2019. Shanahan was appointed the acting defense secretary after former Pentagon chief James Mattis tendered his resignation in December last year over disagreements with the Republican president, particularly on Trump's decision to withdraw American troops from Syria.
Although Trump's nomination of Shanahan makes perfect sense for the president considering the former-Boeing businessman's compliance with his largely controversial strategies, the acting defense secretary's permanent appointment could possibly spell doom for the US national security which has never witnessed an inexperienced supervisor at its helm.
"While Shanahan did not serve in the military, nor does he have significant governmental experience, he does have the most important quality a Cabinet Secretary can have today: total and blind loyalty to Mr. Trump. He proved this in the time he served as acting Secretary, a period that was more job interview than anything else," Michael A. Genovese, President, Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University told MEA Worldwide.
Shanahan, in his months-long stint at the Pentagon, has already been mired in controversy as the Department of Defense's Inspector General had initiated a probe in March into allegations that the executive boosted Boeing in his official capacity as the acting chief. The watchdog, however, did not file charges against Shanahan, clearing the way for the nomination to be put to the Senate for possible confirmation.
Concerns over Shanahan's possible appointment have also emerged considering his lackluster performances during congressional testimonies, where he botched his answers to several key questions pertinent to the country's defense policy.
"It is critical that someone with foreign affairs and/or military experience be put into the position of SECDEF especially with potential flare-ups around the corner with Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela," Craig Douglas Albert, Associate Professor of Political Science with Augusta University said.
"Being non-experienced politically in these areas might be a good fit for President Trump's de-establishment paradigm, but if not done carefully, could cause foreign policy nightmares that could eventually undermine the US' national security. Foreign policy is the one area where policy wonks are essential and should not be overlooked," he added.
The most important factor leading to Shanahan's nomination as the Pentagon chief has been his support of stricter regulations across the US-Mexico border and the construction of a border wall — President Trump's prime campaign promise. The recent exits of key members of the Trump administration have partly been because of their disagreements with the president over border policy.
However, "Shanahan has been explicit about his commitment to President Trump's border options and will work diligently to structure federal Department of Defense funds to support these efforts. This, perhaps more than any reason, is why Trump is nominating him," Albert added.
Trump, over the past two and a half years of his presidency, has made it evident that he likes his Cabinet Secretaries to be personally loyal to him regardless of their competence, and with Shanahan, who sees the president as a CEO of the country, the Republican is getting exactly that.
"In Patrick Shanahan, the president has a person dedicated to serving him above all else. Whereas his predecessor James Mattis would push-back on many Trump proposals, Shanahan is an enabler who will do the president’s bidding," Genovese said.