Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pentagon Pick Shows Challenges of Obama's Ethics Rules

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pentagon Pick Shows Challenges of Obama's Ethics Rules

Article excerpt

The man President Obama nominated to become the No. 2 manager at the Pentagon isn't the first person for that job to come from the defense industry. But Mr. Obama's own executive order on ethics has now become a stumbling block as the White House seeks to push the former lobbyist through confirmation.

It is likely that William Lynn will be confirmed by the US Senate in the coming days, but his controversial nomination highlights the challenge of finding qualified candidates for government who have not occupied high-level posts in industry.

The alternative, say defense experts, is to pick career bureaucrats or former uniformed officers who may find it harder to deal with the defense industry.

"Without his industry background, Lynn really wouldn't understand the job he is about to be given," says Loren Thompson, a senior analyst and chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a public-policy research group outside Washington. "Understanding weapons production and industrial capabilities is central to the job of being deputy secretary."

Mr. Lynn is a former lobbyist with defense giant Raytheon, which among other programs builds missile and satellite systems. He left that position last year, but Obama's "revolving door ban" bars lobbyists from working in government for two years. Lynn would need a waiver from the ban to take up the post.

Sens. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan and John McCain (R) of Arizona, chair and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee respectively, have expressed concern over Lynn's lobbying background though they are likely to support his nomination. Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa and ranking member on the Senate Committee on Finance, says he is awaiting more information from Lynn before he will support him.

Obama stands behind Lynn, as does Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said last week he asked for the waiver because Lynn could serve "in a better manner than anybody else that I saw."

The White House Counsel's office is making "arrangements" to ensure Lynn would act impartially, said Mr. …

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