James Webb likely to replace James Mattis as US Secretary of Defence

James Webb likely to replace James Mattis as US Secretary of Defence

It said Republican senators Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham and former Republican Senator Jim Talent had also been mentioned as possible replacements for Mattis. "But, as you know, President (Barack) Obama fired him and essentially so did I", Trump said.

"Not too good", Trump said at a Cabinet meeting.

Shanahan became acting secretary of defense on Monday, when retired General James Mattis concluded his final day as defense secretary.

In a resignation letter that amounted to a rebuke of Trump's view on how to treat alliances and adversaries, Mattis wrote, "My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues".

His new role will see him dealing with China and the planned withdrawal of USA troops from Syria.

"We all hear about how our competitiveness has eroded", Shanahan said.

The announcement was made during a meeting Wednesday morning at the Pentagon with all of the service secretaries and undersecretaries of defense, according to a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It's unclear whether Trump will nominate Shanahan for Senate confirmation as defense secretary or turn to another candidate.

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It was a very public reminder of the challenges that Shanahan, as acting defense secretary, faces as he navigates the complex terrain that led to the early end of his predecessor's tenure.

The strategy singled out China and Russian Federation as the main threats to US national security, as opposed to the counter-terrorism focus of past formulas for the overall direction of the Defense Department.

Other officials have described Shanahan as an advocate of the Pentagon's toughening stance toward Beijing.

On Wednesday, Trump downplayed Mattis' importance to his national security team and his administration more broadly.

Shanahan, best known for his focus on internal Pentagon reform and his private-sector experience, had spent three decades at Boeing and was the general manager for the 787 Dreamliner passenger jet before he joined the Pentagon past year.

"The National Defence Strategy is [Mattis'] strategy", Shanahan said.

Norquist has been the department's comptroller and chief financial officer since June 2017, and his duties include overseeing the Pentagon's annual budget.

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