Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan Tells Team to Remember 'China, China, China'

Geraldine Edwards
January 4, 2019

Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, had been Mattis' deputy and it was unclear how long he will remain in the role of acting secretary.

Trump announced the leadership change December 23, just three days after Mattis submitted his letter of resignation and announced his plan to serve through February.

Among the most immediate issues on his plate will be the pace at which the US pulls 2,200 or so troops out of Syria, following Trump's decision last month to exit the war-torn country. "But, as you know, President (Barack) Obama fired him and essentially so did I", Trump said.

"Americans don't like the extremes to which both parties have moved in recent years and, quite frankly, neither do I", he said in October 2015 when announcing he was dropping his bid.

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US President Donald Trump showed Wednesday that there is no love lost between himself and his recently departed Defence Secretary James Mattis.

Trump's public posture toward Mattis chilled quickly after. The former Marine Corps general was one of several national security aides who had persuaded Trump that an ongoing military presence there was critical to defeating the Islamic State and other US security interests. "We're not talking about vast wealth", Trump said. This included naming David Norquist, the Pentagon's comptroller, to perform deputy defence secretary duties provisionally as well as retaining his current title.

"Acting Secretary Shanahan told the team to focus on the national defense strategy and to keep this effort moving forward", the USA defense official told reporters.

A day earlier, at a White House meeting with congressional leaders, Trump called Mattis "our great military genius".

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One aide says Shanahan told the gathering that he's focused on the strategy written and implemented under Mattis that focuses on Russian Federation and China as "great power" competitors.

Aides say Shanahan, who's leading the Pentagon after the departure of Jim Mattis, struck the China theme at a meeting Wednesday with the department's top civilian leaders, including the heads of the military services.

On Wednesday, Trump downplayed Mattis' importance to his national security team and his administration more broadly.

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