The precarious perch of a potential Pentagon chief

WASHINGTON (AP) – With no other candidate emerging as the clear front-runner, expectations inside the Pentagon are that Patrick Shanahan will soon be nominated as the next secretary of defense and that he likely would win Senate confirmation.

Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, would be the first career defense industry executive to serve as defense secretary.

He has been the acting secretary since Jim Mattis left Dec. 31. Since then, Shanahan has avoided public missteps while handling such politically sensitive issues as sending military reinforcements to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Some have questioned whether his background amounts to an inherent conflict of interest for a defense secretary presiding over a multi-billion-dollar procurement budget. But Michael O’Hanlon, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, says that experience in defense industry issues could work to Shanahan’s benefit.

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