Shanahan Out, Esper In as Acting Defense Secretary

Shanahan Out, Esper In as Acting Defense Secretary

President Trump announced via Twitter today that Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has withdrawn from consideration as Secretary of Defense.  Furthermore, he is out as Acting Secretary and will be replaced in that position by Secretary of the Army Mark Esper.  The announcement comes hours after stories were published in two leading newspapers about an FBI investigation of Shanahan’s 2010 divorce and allegations of domestic violence although it is not clear who was at fault.

The news broke this morning with these two Trump tweets.

Trump’s decision follows reports in the Washington Post and USA Today that the FBI is investigating incidents of alleged domestic violence.  USA Today focuses on an August 2010 incident in which Shanahan and his then-wife, Kimberley, had an argument that spilled out into their front yard in Seattle.  Each accused the other of being “punched” and resulted in police arresting his wife, but the charges were later dropped for lack of evidence, according to the newspaper.  The Post focuses on a different incident in which, after Shanahan and his wife divorced, Shanahan’s eldest son hit his mother with a baseball bat and questions arose about Shanahan’s conduct in the ensuing investigation.

None of this apparently was discovered when Shanahan was vetted for serving as Deputy Secretary of Defense or Acting Secretary of Defense.

Shanahan issued a statement today saying that while he would have welcomed the opportunity to be Secretary of Defense, “not at the expense of being a good father.”  He explained that 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.”  The stories of what happened years ago paint “an incomplete and therefore misleading” picture.

Mark Esper, Secretary of the Army. Credit: DOD

As Trump’s tweet indicates, he plans to put Mark Esper into the role of Acting Defense Secretary.

Esper, 56, is currently Secretary of the Army.  A 1986 West Point graduate who served with the 101st Airborne Division in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War, he later commanded an airborne rifle company in Europe.  Following active duty, he served in the Virginia and District of Columbia National Guard and Army Reserve. He retired in 2007.  He has a Master’s in Public Administration from the JFK School of Government at Harvard, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from George Washington University.

He has an extensive résumé in defense and international policy.  Among them —

  • Vice President for Government Relations at Raytheon;
  • Executive Vice President for the Global Intellectual Property Center and Vice President for Europe and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce;
  • COO and Executive Vice President of Defense and International Affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association;
  • Chief of Staff for the Heritage Foundation; and
  • congressional staffer–
    • for then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist,
    • as policy director for the House Armed Services Committee,
    • as professional staff member for the Senate Foreign Relations and Government Affairs committees, and
    • as legislative director and senior policy adviser to then-Senator (and later Secretary of Defense) Chuck Hagel.

This article has been updated.


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