It looks like the up-and-down nomination of Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn to be the No. 2 civilian official at the Pentagon is back up again.
Lynn, a respected comptroller in the Clinton Pentagon, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to be deputy defense secretary. Some lawmakers and good government groups – like POGO (the Project on Government Oversight) – raised concerns about whether Lynn had a conflict of interest – given his current job at the Massachusetts-based defense contractor: senior vice president of government operations and strategy.
DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Andy Dunaway
At Lynn's Jan. 15 confirmation hearing, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) complained about the “revolving door” between the Defense Department and the private sector. She called it “an incestuous business” where one day the Defense Department is your employer and the next day it’s your customer.
Lynn assured the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had followed all government ethics rules when he worked at the Pentagon and Raytheon -- and would keep following them in his new job, which in essence would be running the day-to-day operations of the massive department.
That seemed to placate the senators, until Obama signed an executive order on his first full day in the White House toughening, the conflict-of-interest rules for all in-coming administration appointees. And that worried Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mo.) about whether Lynn would have to recuse himself – for two years -- from too many important Pentagon decisions because of potential conflicts.
So Levin held up a committee vote on Lynn pending clarification from the White House. POGO, among others, urged Obama to withdraw Lynn’s nomination. But late last week the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a waiver to Lynn exempting him from the more onerous requirements of the new rules that would have precluded him from doing his job.
Levin, sounding relieved, issued a statement that he supported the nomination and looked forward to its prompt consideration by the full Senate. Levin added, however: that his committee “will continue to insist that Mr. Lynn comply with a strict set of ethics rules that we apply to all nominees, including the requirement to recuse himself, for a period of one year, from any decisions involving his prior employer, unless specifically authorized to participate by an appropriate ethics official. The decision of the Administration to impose an additional set of requirements, and then waive them for this nominee, does not change the standards to which we hold all nominees.”
The question now is whether enough senators will buy in and confirm Lynn or will the nomination run into trouble on the Senate floor. Remember, under Senate rules it takes just one senator to delay such a vote. Stay tuned.