President Donald Trump announced that acting defence chief Patrick Shanahan was removing his name from consideration as the permanent head of the Pentagon.
Writing on Twitter on Tuesday, Mr Trump said Mr Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, “has done a wonderful job” but decided not to go forward with the confirmation process in order to spend more time with his family.
The president said he will name Mark Esper, the secretary of the army, as acting secretary of defence, the third person to take charge of the Pentagon under Mr Trump.
“I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job,” Mr Trump wrote.
Mr Shanahan, who spent three decades at Boeing before being tapped by the Trump administration, had served as acting defence secretary since Jim Mattis resigned in December due to differences with Mr Trump over his policies and approach.
While Mr Trump had nominated Mr Shanahan to become permanent defence secretary, his nomination was never formally sent to the Senate — which must confirm such appointments — raising questions about whether there was an issue with his nomination.
USA Today reported on Tuesday that the FBI had been looking into allegations of domestic violence within the Shanahan family, complicating the background check that all senior officials must have as part of their confirmation process.
His exit marks the latest in a long line of top officials who have been fired or resigned from the administration. Mr Trump is already on his second secretary of state and his third national security adviser in 30 months. Last week, Mr Trump said Sarah Sanders, his press secretary, would also depart the administration.
Mr Shanahan’s departure comes at a critical time for US military policy. The Pentagon this week announced that the US would send an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East amid a rise in tensions with Iran.
Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, travelled to US Central Command in Florida on Tuesday to discuss “challenges in Iran” with General Kenneth McKenzie, Centcom’s commander, and special forces commander General Richard Clarke. Mr Pompeo said it was important to co-ordinate the work of the state department and the Pentagon.
“We had extensive conversations about tactical operations and strategic levels of work between our two organisations to make sure when we present options . . . to President Trump we are doing so in a way that is coherent and consistent,” said Mr Pompeo.
Mr Trump has blamed Tehran for attacks last week on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran has also signalled that it will exceed limits on its enriched uranium stockpile agreed in a nuclear deal with world powers, from which Mr Trump unilaterally withdrew the US last year.
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