Rumors about James Mattis’s impending departure as President Donald Trump’s defense secretary have swirled for months. On Thursday, those rumors became reality.
Whoever succeeds Mattis—who resigned in protest over the president’s military policy—will face the same challenges as the outgoing defense secretary: an impetuous president, fraying alliances, and rising dangers from adversaries old and new. Significantly, though, the next defense secretary will almost certainly share Mattis’s views of the president’s decisions to withdraw troops from Syria and drastically reduce the number of American soldiers in Afghanistan. A nominee who doesn’t will face an uphill confirmation process, a muscular defense policy being one of the few remaining bipartisan issues in American politics.
Mattis will leave his post at the end of February. If no one is in place by then, Patrick Shanahan, the deputy secretary of defense and a former Boeing executive, will take over in an acting capacity—though the president can name an interim, as he has with other Cabinet posts.
Who are the contenders to be the next United States secretary of defense?
The retired four-star general is a Vietnam veteran who previously served as a vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, and is now the chairman of the Institute for the Study of War, a defense think tank in Washington, D.C., and a frequent contributor to Fox News. Soon after he was elected, Trump asked Keane to serve as defense secretary, but Keane declined, citing his wife’s recent death. But he did make two recommendations: Mattis and General David Petraeus, the former commander of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.