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Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to Step Down

Patrick Shanahan prior to his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Feb. 23, 2019. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Reuters)

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has withdrawn from the confirmation process after being nominated to continue in his role on a permanent basis, President Trump announced Tuesday on Twitter.

Trump said that Mark Esper, who currently serves as secretary of the Army, will succeed Shanahan as acting secretary of defense, but did not reveal whether Esper would be nominated for the permanent job.

Shanahan’s confirmation process was slowed by an unusually lengthy FBI background check. The delay was likely related to a 2011 domestic-violence incident in which Shanahan’s then-17-year-old son hit his mother in the head with a baseball bat. Shanahan, who defended his son in the wake of the incident, told the Washington Post that he feared the confirmation process, and the resulting media focus on the years-old incident, would re-traumatize his family.

The announcement comes one day after Shanahan revealed that the Pentagon will deploy 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East in response to escalating Iranian aggression.

“In response to a request from the US Central Command for additional forces, and with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in consultation with the White House, I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East,” Shanahan said in a statement.

Shanahan, in justifying the deployment, cited a number of recent conflagrations in the region, including, most recently, an attack on two international oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz last week. Administration officials claim the attack, which injured a number of sailors and forced them overboard, could only have been carried out by Iranian forces.

Iranian officials also announced Monday that their Atomic Energy Agency’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium will be made to exceed the limits established under the 2015 nuclear treaty within ten days if the pact’s European signatories fail to take action to shield Iran from the effects of U.S. sanctions.

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