The president is replacing Defense Secretary James Mattis two months earlier than his planned retirement, amid concerns from Congress and the defense community over Mattis’ exit from the administration.
Trump tweeted on Sunday that he will replace Mattis with Deputy Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, who will take on the role of Acting Secretary of Defense on January 1.
“Patrick has a long list of accomplishments while serving as Deputy, & previously Boeing. He will be great!” Trump
Mattis resigned on Thursday over Trump’s foreign policy positions, most recently his decision to withdraw all US troops from Syria and significantly reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan.
“The secretary of defense serves at the pleasure of the president. The department remains focused on national security,” said Department of Defense spokesperson Col. Rob Manning in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
In his resignation letter Mattis wrote that he believed in “treating allies with respect,” and that the US “must be resolute and unambiguous” in how it approaches countries “whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours,” including China and Russia.
He said his last day in office would be Feb. 28, 2019, “in order to ensure stability Within the Department” and so that he could represent the department at a NATO meeting of defense ministers in February.
“We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances,” Mattis wrote.
He said he was resigning “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”