On Nov. 10, 2016, Pat Shanahan, chair of the University of Washington’s board of regents, delivered a message to students and faculty shaken by the election of President Donald Trump two days before: All is not lost.
“The UW knows what it is and all is not lost,” Shanahan said, according to meeting minutes. He urged the university community to come together and “stay focused on what’s important knowing there will be a lot of change.”
Two years on, Shanahan is poised to helm a very different institution: the most powerful military force on earth. On Sunday, President Trump said he would name Shanahan, who had been serving as deputy secretary of defense since July 2017, as acting secretary starting Jan. 1.
To be effective as acting secretary of defense, Shanahan will need to draw on his people skills and business acumen, experts say.
“The hardest part of the job — the part he’s best prepared for — is the budget,” said Peter Feaver, a Duke University professor specializing in civil-military relations, who has met Shanahan. The more important quality, though, may be building relationships in the White House.
“He has the most important quality in this administration,” Feaver said. “He’s liked by President Trump.”