McClatchy Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump nominated a top Boeing executive to serve as Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ second in command Thursday.
Patrick Shanahan is a vice president at the second largest defense contractor in the country, where he oversees the company’s manufacturing and supplier management. He has been at Boeing since 1986, where he has been credited with getting the 787 Dreamliner back on track after years of production problems. He also spent five years on the military side of Boeing, running the U.S. Army helicopter plant in Philadelphia.
Shanahan would have to pledge to recuse himself from matters involving Boeing for at least two years and any “official actions that directly and substantially affect former employers or clients,” according to Trump’s executive order on ethics.
The president has suggested that Boeing’s F-18 Super Hornet could be upgraded as a potential alternative to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 as the Pentagon’s advanced fighter jet.
The Trump administration’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which was released Thursday, would boost Pentagon spending by $52.3 billion, or 10 percent. This would include $13.5 billion to procure additional aircraft, missiles and ships, including F-18 warplanes and Apache helicopters manufactured by Boeing.
Trump nominated people to fill several other key posts at the Pentagon, including David Norquist, a partner with Kearney and Co., as undersecretary of defense, comptroller, and David Joel Trachtenberg, CEO of Shortwaver Consulting, as principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.
“These are all highly qualified individuals who were personally recommended by Secretary Mattis to the president for nomination,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said.
Acting Deputy Secretary Bob Work, a holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration, will continue to serve in the role until Shanahan’s confirmation.
“Secretary Mattis is grateful to Deputy Secretary Bob Work for agreeing to continue serving until his successor is confirmed. His steady leadership is critical during this time of transition,” Davis said.
Trump has had a combative relationship with Boeing, criticizing it for the cost of a program to replace Air Force One, which he tweeted was “out of control.” The tweet cost Boeing shareholders more than $550 million when the stock price dropped. Since then, however, several meetings with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg seemed to smooth things over.
“I think Mr. Trump is doing a great job of engaging with business,” Muilenburg said after their second meeting at Trump Tower in January, in which they discussed renegotiating Air Force One costs. “We’re on the same page here.”
Thursday’s nominations are a step toward filling empty offices at the Pentagon two months into Trump’s administration. It has been a slow process, with Vincent Viola and Philip Bilden, his nominees to head the Army and Navy, both withdrawing after citing ethics concerns. The Pentagon currently has only one service secretary nominee. Trump’s pick for Air Force secretary, former New Mexico representative Heather Wilson, has yet to be scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing.
Previously, Shanahan was a senior vice president at Boeing Commercial airplanes, where he managed the 737, 747, 767, 777 and 787 programs. He was responsible for operations at Boeing’s main manufacturing sites in Renton and Everett and Charleston, South Carolina.
Before that he worked on the company’s missile defense systems programs, where he oversaw all U.S. Army aviation including helicopter units such as the CH-47 Chinook, the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor and the AH-64D Apache attack helicopter.
A Seattle native, Shanahan studied mechanical engineering at the University of Washington, where he now serves as a regent.
Mattis originally expressed interest in having Michelle Flournoy, former undersecretary for policy under Obama, as his deputy. She declined for moral reasons, telling Politico in an interview that “he needed a deputy who wouldn’t be struggling every other day about whether they could be part of some of the policies that were likely to take shape.”