WASHINGTON (AP) — Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan stepped down Tuesday before his formal nomination ever went to the Senate.
President Donald Trump announced Shanahan’s departure in a tweet, and said Army Secretary Mark Esper would be the new acting Pentagon chief.
Esper is an Army veteran who served in the first Iraq war and also has experience as a national security adviser on Capitol Hill as well as a defense industry lobbyist.
Shanahan’s withdrawal comes at a time of escalating tensions in the Middle East, a day after the U.S. authorized sending additional troops to the region, and after months of unexplained delays in the confirmation process.
In a statement, Shanahan said he asked to be withdrawn from the nomination process and would work on an “appropriate transition.”
The Pentagon, in a statement, said Esper will take over the job at midnight Sunday. Esper and Shanahan met at length Tuesday to begin transition planning.
Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, has been leading the Pentagon as acting secretary since the beginning of the year.
Esper was sworn in as Army secretary in November 2017 after seven-years as a lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon.