WASHINGTON — Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has selected Jonathan Rath Hoffman, currently at the Department of Homeland Security, as the Pentagon’s new assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, Defense News has learned.
In that role, Hoffman will serve as a top communications director and adviser for Shanahan, although it is unclear if Hoffman will also hold briefings as the Pentagon spokesman.
Hoffman currently holds a similar title with DHS, where he has been since shortly after President Donald Trump took office, following a number of private sector jobs. He also serves as a major in the Air Force Reserve’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
A senior defense official told Defense News that Hoffman had been interviewing for the job for roughly six weeks, and that his decision to come to the Pentagon has nothing to do with the recent shakeup at DHS, which saw Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other top officials removed as Trump considers tougher measures along the border with Mexico.
The official also denied that the selection of Hoffman has anything to do with the expectation, stated by Shanahan last week, that the Defense Department’s role along the border is set to expand.
“One thing has nothing to do with the other,” the official said of Hoffman’s border background, adding Hoffman will have to know much more than just the border, including “Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Turkey and the F-35.”
The department has gone more than 300 days since providing an on-camera briefing to reporters. The official pointed to Hoffman’s hiring as proof that Shanahan is pushing to improve relations with the Pentagon press corps, adding that the acting secretary “is committed to going back to on-camera briefings. We just don’t know exactly when that will start.”
Hoffman is the replacement for Dana White, who vacated the job shortly after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stepped down at the end of last year. Charlie Summers, White’s deputy, has been acting in that capacity.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.