- Gen. James Mattis doubted that the nation’s overextended military could count on significantly higher funding in the coming years
- The former Pentagon chief pushed programs to make U.S. forces more mobile and combat-ready, and called for limiting overseas deployments
- Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is an interim, caretaker figure most likely to be replaced soon by someone with more clout
On December 21, 2018, United States Defense Secretary James Mattis announced his resignation. He left office a little over a week later. His deputy, Patrick M. Shanahan, became the acting secretary. How long Mr. Shanahan will keep the top post and how defense policies will change following retired General Mattis’ departure are two questions of significant import for the next two years of Donald Trump’s presidency. In the short term, expect few significant shifts in direction. The status quo, however, might not endure long.
Thus far, Mr. Shanahan has taken care to send signals that he planned no big deviations from his predecessor’s course. During his tenure, Secretary Mattis identified readiness as the top challenge facing the Defense Department. He devoted significant departmental resources and much of his personal attention to the issue. Last year, for example, the secretary put together a project aimed at achieving a minimum of 80 percent mission-capability rates for the nation’s fighter aircraft fleet, a goal significantly above the current rates.