Could Pat Shanahan Reshape Trump’s Administration?

Trump’s interim appointment of Patrick Shanahan as acting Secretary of Defence may offer an opportunity to bring order to chaos. Shanahan has had divers management roles at Boeing.  He served as vice president and general manager for Boeing Rotorcraft Systems including the V-22 Osprey, the CH-47 Chinook, and the AH-64D Apache. He moved over to missiles, heading Boeing Missile Defense Systems in December 2004.  This included Boeing’s version of Star Wars, the  Ground-based Midcourse Defense system and  Airborne Lasers.  Then Boeing moved him to  vice president for the troubled  the Boeing 787 Dreamliner program and vice president of Airplane Programs at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. , beginning in December 2008.]

Patrick Shanahan may be the ideal choice for a permanent Chief of Staff in Trump’s shaky office.

I say this because, unlike most of Trump’s cabinet. Mr. Shanahan has major credibility and experience in the business world.  The acting Secretary also has impressive ties to the worlds of tech and academe.

Putting Patrick Shanahan into Trump speak. “He has built things!”

The man is cut from the same cloth as Alan Mulally …  A Boeing engineer who rose through the ranks to head the Lazy B’s commercial aircraft division, Alan Mulally lost out when the Lazy B merged with McDonald’s aircraft.  Instead of Mulally’s becoming CEO of the mashup in Seattle,  Boeing moved the headquarters to Chicago and Mulallv  ended up heading Ford.  Alan Mulally saved that company from bankruptcy.

Mulally was approached in 2016 to run against Trump but turned the GOP never Trumpies down probably because few CEOs want to function as public politicians.     Shanahan is cut from  the same cloth as Mulally.  He has never been seen as a Republican or a Democrat.  He is a mechanical engineer who managed Boeing’s commercial division and created the 787 program.  He is a the “builder” Trump fancies himself to be.

But there is more.  Shanahan is not the son of a shady NY real estate mogul.  A Seattle boy, Patrick grew up to be a UW alum.  He is also the son of a  remarkable man, Michael G. Shanahan.  In 1971, after service in Vietnam, the elder Shanahan took the job of UW Chief of Police. He did this at the height of the antiwar movement and during an era where the U district became the go to place for small crimes and drugs.  As Chief,  Shanahan had great success , bridging the difficult terrain of a growing research institute, student halls filled with somehow very uptight young people, and an ohso controlling administration.  This success continued into the  90s until Shanahan retired in June of 1995.

I can still remember my own experiences as a young faculty member attending campus protests.  The UW police showed a level of professionalism that made me proud.  Later, after we moved to South Lake Union, one of the greatest losses was moving out  of the UW police domain. With all due respect to the Seattle Police, there have been times when 911 is not all that useful when we have a radioactive spill or animal rights protest.

Michael Shanahan’s son graduated from UW as a mechanical engineer and followed in Mulally’s footsteps to head the commercial aircraft division at the Lazy B. Patrick Shanahan was credited with the move of Boeing to its new plant in South Carolina where Boeing added assembly lines to those in Seattle.  The 787 Dreamliner, built in WASTATE and SOUTH CAROLINA, was a political mess that Shanahan turned around.  The political part of this is very clear in terms of the tax benefits Boeing got for not moving all of the 787 to South Carolina!

Shanahan’s management effort was more obvious than any political role he played. The 787 was designed to  be built by Boeing partners scattered around the globe.  International distribution of the work  provided support for later sales and funding for the risk inherent in building the world’s first carbon fiber jetliner.  Coordinating world wide distributed manufacturing was probably very much like the problem of the Pentagon’s many projects built by companies with plants spread across every state with votes in Congress.

Michael Shanahan, UW C.O.P. A photograph of his father is the only one in Patrick’s Pentagon office.

Shanahan’s  six-year stint on the University of Washington’s board of regents offers a glimpse into how he approaches challenges.  During his tenure, we began an ambitious campus expansion.  As a regent coming from industry, Shanahan focussed on issues of management and efficiency.  The physical expansion was driven, in part by relations with Paul Allen and Bill Gates.  Computer Science grew to become a college in its own right and to foster a branch campus in Bellevue.  Genome Sciences and World Health programs grew,  fostered again  by Bill Gates.  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided $210 million  for a massive new population-health building, now under construction.

During  all of this Shanahan showed deep ties to management, academic  and technological experts.  All other issues aside, that sort of talent is sadly needed by what is now an incompetent Trump administration.

 Perhaps most telling, however, is a message Regent Shanahan delivered to students and faculty after the election of Donald Trump:

“The UW knows what it is and all is not lost … stay focused on what’s important knowing there will be a lot of change.”


1 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Roger Rabbit #

    This administration has no permanent positions. Everyone who works for Trump is a temporary hire.

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