In this Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018 file photo, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, speaks to reporters on the steps of the River entrance of the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, file)
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The sooner-than-expected departure of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis shifts the focus to President Donald Trump's appointment of an acting Pentagon chief and plans for a permanent replacement.It also signals an acrimonious end to a tense relationship between Trump and Mattis that had eroded in recent months. A fracture developed last week over Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and worsened after Mattis' public disagreement with Trump, aired in his resignation letter.Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will take over as acting secretary on Jan. 1, Trump announced in a tweet Sunday. In the new year Trump wants to focus on streamlining purchases at the Pentagon, an issue on which Shanahan has already been working, a White House official said. U.S. officials said they didn't know if Shanahan would be Trump's nominee to replace Mattis. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, not the president, notified Mattis of Trump's decision to put in place Shanahan, said a senior administration official who insisted on anonymity to discuss personnel issues.A White House official said Trump decided Mattis should leave the administration earlier than planned to avoid a drawn-out transition when someone on hand whom they consider a qualified deputy capable of running the Pentagon in an acting capacity.
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