Who is Patrick Shanahan, Trump's new defense secretary?

President Trump announced Sunday that Patrick Shanahan, the deputy secretary of defense, will become acting secretary, replacing outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on New Year’s Day — two months before Mattis’s resignation was supposed to take effect.

Trump’s tweet came just three days after Mattis announced he was resigning following the president’s controversial decision to withdraw American troops from Syria.

Shanahan, who is originally from Washington state, has been the deputy secretary of defense since July 2017. Before joining the government, Shanahan spent 32 years working for Boeing, a major defense contractor. He was most recently the company’s senior vice president of supply chain and operations.

During his career at Boeing, Shanahan served as senior vice president of commercial airplane programs and had leadership positions in the development of various aircraft and weapons. As vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, he oversaw the creation of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, which can target and destroy ballistic missiles, and the development of aircraft-based laser weapons. And as vice president and general manager of Boeing Rotorcraft Systems, he oversaw the development of combat helicopters, including the Apache and Chinook, and the Osprey, which Boeing calls the “most in-demand aircraft” with the Marine Corps.

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Secretary of Defense James Mattis
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Secretary of Defense James Mattis

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis walks out after a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Bedminster Township, N.J. on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016.

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence greet retired Marine General James Mattis for a meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Retired Marine General James Mattis departs as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump walks back into the main clubhouse following their meeting at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster following their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump stands with retired Marine Gen. James Mattis following their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James 'Jim' Mattis and Operation Gratitude Founder Carolyn Blashek speak during the DIRECTV and Operation Gratitude day of service at the fifth annual DIRECTV Dealer Revolution Conference at Caesars Palace on July 23, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

(Photo by Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for DIRECTV)

Egyptian Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Sami Anan shakes hands with US Commander of the Central Command James Mattis during a meeting in Cairo on March 29, 2011.

(KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James 'Jim' Mattis speaks during the DIRECTV and Operation Gratitude day of service at the fifth annual DIRECTV Dealer Revolution Conference at Caesars Palace on July 23, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

(Photo by Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for DIRECTV)

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James 'Jim' Mattis, former commander of the U.S. Central Command testifies before the House (Select) Intelligence Committee on 'Threats Posed by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), AQ (al Qaeda), and Other Islamic Extremists' on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., September 18, 2014. Yesterday the House approved President Obama's plan to train Syrian rebels to counter ISIL.

(Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

Marine Corps General James Mattis, commander of the US Central Command, appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, March 1, 2011. Enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya would first require a military operation to destroy the north African nation's air defense systems, top US commander General James Mattis warned Tuesday. A no-fly zone would require removing 'the air defense capability first,' Mattis told a Senate hearing. 'It would be a military operation,' he added.

(CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. Joint Forces Command Commander James Mattis speaks during the 2010 Atlantic Council awards dinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on April 28, 2010 in Washington, DC.

(Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)

Kuwait Major General James Mattis, a high ranking Marine commander who also led troops into Afghanistan, visits Living Support Area one in Kuwait near the Iraqi border where troops are poised to begin a war against Iraq if called to do so by the President of the United States.

(Photo by Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis addresses a news conference during a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis attend a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis testifies to the House Armed Services Committee on "The National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis reviews the guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony in Hanoi, Vietnam January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
U.S. Secretary for Defense, Jim Mattis, sits opposite Britain's Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, before a meeting at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in central London, Britain November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis waits for the arrival of Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli prior to a meeting on the sidelines of a NATO defense ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium November 8, 2017. Reuters/Virginia Mayo/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and Defense Secretary James Mattis participates in a briefing with senior military leaders at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
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Trump didn’t indicate who he might choose as a permanent replacement for Mattis, a retired four-star general who almost alone in Trump’s Cabinet had support from both parties; he was the first Cabinet secretary confirmed, by a vote of 98-1. Shanahan, if nominated, would almost certainly be a much more controversial choice, given his job history with one of the world’s largest and most influential defense contractors. Trump’s choices to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler, have both been criticized for ties to the fossil fuel industry. And Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, on “Meet the Press” Sunday, served notice that he wanted Mattis replaced by someone who shared Mattis’s expansive view of America’s obligations in the world and to its allies. It’s not clear if Shanahan, whose background is in military hardware, would have the same outlook.

Early in his administration Trump boasted about the former generals serving in the cabinet and White House. By January, all will be gone: Mattis, former National Security Advisers Mike Flynn and H.R. McMaster and former Chief of Staff John Kelly.  In light of the pushback against Trump’s Syria decision by American generals, and Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the widely respected Mattis, the White House may have a hard time finding a prominent military official to take over at the Pentagon.

Secretary of defense is a civilian job, and Mattis needed a special waiver to be confirmed. Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas has been mentioned as a possible candidate. An Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Cotton developed a hawkish reputation with his criticisms of the Obama administration’s foreign policy and he often defends Trump against his colleagues on the Senate floor. But Cotton, 41, is believed to have national political ambitions and might not want to give up his seat to serve at the pleasure of a mercurial president.

Former Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., now a Washington lobbyist and Heritage Foundation fellow, was rumored to be on the short list for the Pentagon job in 2016, before Mattis was chosen.

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