Politics

White House won't say if Patrick Shanahan will be nominated for Defense secretary — but Trump 'likes him'

Key Points
  • The White House declined to comment Monday on whether acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan would be tapped later this week by President Donald Trump to take the top spot at the Pentagon.
  • "I'm not going to make any personnel announcements at this time," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday during a media briefing at the White House.
  • Shanahan ascended to the acting role in the wake of then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis' shock resignation in December.
Defense Department's Patrick Shanahan, before he was tapped by President Donald Trump to serve as the department's Acting Secretary
Department of Defense

WASHINGTON — The White House declined to comment Monday on whether acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan would be tapped later this week by President Donald Trump to take the top spot at the Pentagon.

"I'm not going to make any personnel announcements at this time," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday during a media briefing at the White House.

"I can tell you that the president has a great deal of respect for acting Defense Secretary Shanahan, he likes him, and when the president is ready to make an announcement on that front, he certainly will," Sanders said.

Shanahan ascended to the acting role in the wake of then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis' shock resignation in December.

In his resignation letter, Mattis said that disagreements with the president about America's treatment of both allies and strategic competitors came from beliefs that "are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues."

Mattis, a revered Marine with a military career spanning four decades, was known for his battlefield prowess and kinship with rank-and-file service members. Before he became Trump's Defense secretary, the four-star general led the U.S. Central Command, the combatant command responsible for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

James Mattis, U.S. Secretary of Defense, right, and Patrick Shanahan, Deputy Secretary of Defense, wait outside the Pentagon before an event in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg via Getty Images

In contrast, Shanahan comes to the role with no experience either in the military or in foreign policy, except for his work in the Trump administration. What views he does have on America's role in the world have been shaped by his decades in the private sector.

Before coming to the Pentagon, Shanahan spent just over 30 years at Boeing, where he helped develop the 787 Dreamliner. In 2017, he left the aerospace giant to become the 33rd deputy secretary of Defense, a role that oversees the Pentagon's colossal $700 billion budget.

Shanahan's entrance into the Pentagon comes as Trump has pulled the United States back from global commitments and pushed forward on ambitious projects like the denuclearization of North Korea, unsettling allies as well as experts, and raising the specter of a new international balance of power.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.