BREAKING: Inhofe Expresses Doubts About Shanahan as Permanent Defense Secretary

By Connie Lee
Sen. James Inhofe

Photo: Defense Dept.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James M. Inhofe, R-Okla. anticipates an upcoming nomination for a new defense secretary, but doubts the position will be taken by the current placeholder.

“We need to have a secretary of defense. ... I anticipate we will. If you're an acting, you don't have the force that you should have at the office,” Inhofe said Feb. 12 during a meeting with reporters in Washington, D.C. Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, became acting secretary of defense this year following Jim Mattis’ departure in December.

White House officials have floated the possibility of Shanahan continuing in the role for an indefinite period of time. President Donald Trump has publicly stated his preference for members of his cabinet performing in acting roles, saying it provides him with additional “flexibility.”

However, should a permanent replacement be nominated, Shanahan is unlikely to receive the nomination and lacks the “humility” of Mattis, Inhofe said.

“I don't think it's going to happen,” Inhofe noted. “I don't think we're going to get to that point, but I could be wrong.”

Concerns about how Shanahan’s previous ties to Boeing could affect Pentagon decisions have arisen since he took on the role. He denied these claims in January, calling these criticisms "just noise." Politico previously reported that he called the F-35 "f---ed up." According to Politico, he said "If it had gone to Boeing" rather than Lockheed Martin, "it would be done much better."

"I'm more than capable of doing the work and making the right kinds of decisions," Shanahan told reporters in January. "I am biased towards performance. I am biased towards giving the taxpayer their money's worth." 

But Inhofe expressed doubt about Shanahan's ability to remain objective. 

“Every time someone has any kind of a background, whether it's Boeing, [or] regardless of what company it is, there's going to be ... a built-in suspicion and I would say this will become very partisan and the partisanship is going to show in our committee,” Inhofe said.

At the meeting with reporters, Inhofe also reinforced previous comments he has made regarding his belief that F-35 production should be tripled over the next five years. Although the joint strike fighter has yet to complete initial operational test and evaluation, “there are going to be the normal type of deficiencies as it's being developed and we don't have the luxury of time to wait” before increasing production, he said.

“I don't know of anything else that is going to take the place of the F-35 in our inventory,” he noted.


Topics: Defense Department

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