President Trump intends to nominate acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan to run the Defense Department, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
"Based upon his outstanding service to the country and his demonstrated ability to lead, President Trump intends to nominate Patrick M. Shanahan to be the Secretary of Defense," Sanders tweeted.
Shanahan's nomination was in the offing several months ago, sources said, but an inspector general ethics investigation into his ties to Boeing, his former employer, was announced March 15 and halted the process.
The IG completed the investigation April 25, clearing Shanahan of any wrongdoing and re-opening the path to his nomination as defense secretary.
"I am honored by today's announcement of President Trump's intent to nominate," Shanahan said in a statement. "If confirmed by the Senate, I will continue the aggressive implementation of our National Defense Strategy. I remain committed to modernizing the force so our remarkable soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have everything they need to keep our military lethal and our country safe."
Shanahan, confirmed as the Pentagon's No. 2 official in July 2017, is the longest-serving acting defense secretary in U.S. history, stepping in Jan. 1 for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who abruptly resigned in December over foreign policy differences with Trump.
In that time, Shanahan has made several significant policy moves, such as working to sell Congress on a final Space Force proposal; helping to prepare a budget request that added billions in additional defense spending; and assisting other senior administration officials to pivot Trump away from precipitous troop withdrawals in the Middle East.
Shanahan has also been the target of criticism by Democrats who oppose the Pentagon’s new mission to the border.
Meanwhile, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said in a statement he is “pleased” with the nomination, despite having previously voiced reservations about Shanahan.
“We need a confirmed leader at the department and, after working with him closely over the last few months, I welcome his selection,” Inhofe said. “I look forward to talking with him at his confirmation hearing about how we can work together to implement the National Defense Strategy and care for our service members, veterans and military families.”
Though Republicans have enough votes to potentially advance Shanahan's nomination to the full Senate, his confirmation process could prove bumpy.
Seven senators opposed Shanahan's confirmation as deputy defense secretary, some of whom have made strong statements questioning his experience and ties to the defense industry. Two of the "no" votes on the Senate Armed Services Committee have announced 2020 presidential campaigns and have been publicly critical of the Trump administration: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Both were also among six senators who sent a letter to Shanahan last month saying they are "extraordinary distressed" about the Pentagon's border security mission and its potential to damage military readiness.