U.S. President Donald Trump announced Sunday that Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will replace Defense Secretary James Mattis on January 1.
The move comes a full two months before the previously announced date that Mattis was to formally leave (Feb. 28), following last week’s submission of a letter of resignation.
Mattis quit in response to Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, a process that will take a period of 120 days once the decision is announced, as it has been.
The U.S. envoy to the coalition forces fighting the Islamic State terror group in Syria and Iraq, Brett McGurk, handed in his own resignation one day later.
Shanahan previously served as an executive at Boeing for decades, overseeing the defense contractor’s commercial aircraft and missile defense programs, prior to his appointment as deputy defense secretary.
At the Pentagon he has overseen the development of a new missile defense policy that has yet to be released as well as an upgraded efficiency model in military expenditures. He lacks the broad-based foreign policy experience that Mattis had, but was praised by Trump for his success in pushing through the president’s vision for a space force.