Shanahan drops bid to lead Pentagon, cites ‘painful’ past

Updated June 19, 2019

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After months of unexplained delays, US acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan stepped down on Tuesday before his formal nomination went to the Senate, citing a “painful” family situation that would hurt his children and reopen “wounds we have worked years to heal”. — AFP/File
After months of unexplained delays, US acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan stepped down on Tuesday before his formal nomination went to the Senate, citing a “painful” family situation that would hurt his children and reopen “wounds we have worked years to heal”. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: After months of unexplained delays, US acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan stepped down on Tuesday before his formal nomination went to the Senate, citing a “painful” family situation that would hurt his children and reopen “wounds we have worked years to heal”.

President Donald Trump announced Shanahan’s departure in a tweet, saying that Army Secretary Mark Esper would be the new acting Pentagon chief.

“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,” the 56-year-old Shanahan said in a statement. “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. Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority.”

The acting defence secretary did not provide specifics about the family situation, but media outlets, including Washington Post and USA Today published extensive reports about circumstances surrounding his 2011 divorce shortly before Trump tweeted that Shanahan’s nomination would not go forward.

In his statement, Shanahan said he asked to be withdrawn from the nomination process and he resigned from his previous post as deputy defence secretary. He said he would work on an “appropriate transition” but it wasn’t clear how quickly he will leave the job.

Defence officials said leaders were trying to decide when Esper would take over the job. Officials were meeting to discuss transition plans.

In his tweet, Trump simply said that Shanahan had done “a wonderful job”, but would step aside to “devote more time to his family”.

And, in noting Esper’s move, Trump added: “I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job!”

The post atop the Pentagon has not been filled permanently since Gen James Mattis retired in January following policy differences with Trump.

Trump announced last month that he would nominate Shanahan, but the formal nomination process in the Senate had been inexplicably delayed.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2019