Pentagon No. 2 Says Goodbye; Mattis: ‘I Hate To Lose Him’

Pentagon No. 2 Says Goodbye; Mattis: ‘I Hate To Lose Him’

The Pentagon on Friday bid farewell to Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work. His boss, Secretary Jim Mattis, said Work is sure to leave a void that will be hard to fill.

“I hate to lose him,” Mattis told a small group of reporters at the Pentagon.

Work’s successor, Patrick Shanahan, has been cleared by the Senate Armed Services Committee but has not yet been confirmed by the full chamber, so he is not officially in the building. Mattis said he has a huge agenda planned for Shanahan, assuming he is confirmed. But he cautioned it would be premature to discuss the details until the nominee gets the final green light from the Senate and has a chance to sit down with him.

“We do not presume the consent of the Senate,” Mattis said. “It’s a constitutional requirement, an operating principle that we have, and we live by strongly,” he added. “I would not even talk to him until the Senate gives the advice and consent.”

But, after the Boeing executive is confirmed, “then, you watch what I do to him,” the secretary quipped.

The budget will be a top priority, as is normally the case for deputies.

“He’ll be deeply involved in the budget,” said Mattis, with the fiscal year 2018 request being the most pressing item, before the Pentagon moves on to start drafting its 2019 spending proposal.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain on the Senate floor Thursday took the opportunity to remind his colleagues that they need to move on the Shanahan confirmation. The Senate remains consumed by other issues such as health care and it’s not clear when lawmakers will vote although it could happen as early as Monday, according to a report from Politico.

“Tomorrow, the current deputy secretary of defense, Bob Work, will leave office. There is simply no more time to delay,” McCain said. “The obstruction has gone on long enough, and it has to stop.”

Work has indicated that, despite being officially retired from his post, he will stay until Shanahan arrives. The retired Marine Corps colonel and former Navy undersecretary has served as the 32nd deputy secretary of defense since April 2014.

Mattis slowly is getting a senior team in place. He already has Heather Wilson in office as Air Force secretary. He is awaiting the confirmation of Navy secretary nominee Richard Spencer, who has cleared the Senate Armed Services Committee. No Army secretary has yet been nominated by the White House. Mattis said he has been active in the matter but did not want to “get in front of the president.”

“We do have candidates,” he said. “I’d rather let that one be announced by the president and the clerk of the Senate. We’ve done our due diligence.”

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