New Pentagon chief discusses Syria with Pompeo, Bolton

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives for his first day in his new job at the Pentagon in Washington on Jan. 2

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives for his first day in his new job at the Pentagon in Washington on Jan. 2

"As you know, President Obama fired him, and essentially so did I", he explained to reporters, contradicting an earlier statement. The 2018 National Defense Strategy, which Shanahan helped develop, branded China as a strategic competitor.

The Pentagon's top financial officer David Norquist will soon take over as the acting deputy defense secretary, in succession to Patrick Shanahan, who took over as the acting defense secretary.

At a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Trump said Mattis "couldn't believe" how much federal money Trump had helped secure for the military.

The US accuses Beijing of a continuing pattern of military and economic espionage and has criticised China's ambitious "Belt and Road" trade and infrastructure initiative as being a form of economic coercion. "America's military strength remains our focus", Shanahan said in a New Year's message on Twitter.

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

He has since backpedaled and suggested more of a phased timeline for the withdrawal.

Even Shanahan had been picked by Mattis for the deputy job and held him in high regard, officials say.

"For these reports to be given out and essentially given out to the enemy, that's insane", Trump told Shanahan. Trump could face an uphill battle finding someone who can be confirmed by the Senate in the wake of Mattis' acrimonious departure.

Little known outside business and Washington circles, Shanahan takes the world stage at a time of tumultuous changes and unpredictable foreign policy moves under Trump.

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 previous year.

The Times said Webb could potentially allow Trump to bypass "more hawkish Republicans whose names have been floated to replace Jim Mattis".

But some critics have questioned whether a man with deep industry ties should be running the Pentagon.

Separately, Shanahan's spokesman, Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, said that as part of Shanahan's ethics agreement he had stepped aside himself "for the duration of his service" at the Pentagon from "matters in which the Boeing Company is a party".

Expressing happiness over Shanahan's appointment, acting assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Charles E. Summers, Jr. tweeted, "It was a great day leading the highly talented team at the Office of Secretary of Defense-Public Affairs".

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