SAN DIEGO — After months spent drawing up plans for the military's future, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan says he is ready to get out of the Pentagon and carry out his marching orders from the top to go "down and in."
Shanahan spent the majority of his first six months overseeing a new National Defense Strategy and drafting the fiscal 2019 budget request.
The next six months, he says, will be focused on putting "hard goals" in place to support both efforts — with a premium on getting out to see the military, which he knows relatively little about compared to many of his predecessors.
The former Boeing executive who became the Pentagon's No. 2 in July is also relying in part for guidance on his immediate predecessor, who says Shanahan has set up "a project management room where he follows all of the different programs."
On a recent trip to Colorado and California to get up to speed on naval and space operations, Shanahan seemed eager to see how his work is actually making a difference.
"My style is to go where the work is being performed instead of meetings at the Pentagon," Shanahan told reporters traveling with him earlier this month, describing his role as the "ultimate management-by-walking-around job."
"The more you kick the tires, listen to what people are saying, their needs or the biggest issues to solve, it makes me more effective when I'm back in the Pentagon," he said.
There's a perception that the deputy defense secretary's role in managing the day-to-day of the Pentagon means he or she should never leave the building.
But Bob Work, who preceded Shanahan in the job, said that's "wrong on so many levels," especially for someone like Shanahan whose background is primarily outside the military.
"For Patrick, that's I think more important because he comes from industry and doesn't have a lot of experience inside DoD," Work said. "The trips are very important for him to learn more about the rhythms of the department."
Shanahan named Work among the people he relies on for advice in his new job — and Work said the two men talk about every six weeks.
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