WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate approved William Lynn, a former Raytheon Co lobbyist, to be deputy secretary of defense after he received a special White House waiver from strict new rules meant to close a “revolving door” between government and big business.
Lynn, the Pentagon’s chief financial officer from November 1997 to January 2001 under former President Bill Clinton, was confirmed by a vote of 93 to 4 on Wednesday.
Raytheon is the world’s biggest missile-maker and now the Pentagon’s No. 6 supplier by sales. Lynn was a senior vice president registered as the company’s top lobbyist to the Defense Department from July 2002 until last year.
President Barack Obama’s new ethics rules require appointees to recuse themselves from work related to their former employer or clients, as well as from matters or issues for which they lobbied in the previous two years.
White House general counsel Gregory Craig and Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, had said Lynn was given a waiver because of “exigent circumstances relating to national security” and in “the public interest.”
Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican noted for holding federal officials to account, deplored Lynn’s nomination in a floor speech before the vote.
“I think the Office of Government Ethics will have to set up a full-time department just to handle Mr. Lynn’s conflicts-of-interest Raytheon waivers,” said Grassley, who voted against confirmation.
Lynn would remain subject to Executive Branch rules that require him to seek approval for one year from an ethics officer to take part in any decision involving his prior employer.
As deputy secretary of defense, Lynn would work as the Pentagon’s top operations manager, with the final approval authority on most if not all contract, program and budget decisions.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, sole holdover from the cabinet of former President George W. Bush, said he would welcome Lynn to the Pentagon on Thursday.
Gates looks forward to “getting down to work with him on the many difficult issues confronting this department, especially the need to devise a responsible and credible defense budget in the midst of this economic crisis,” said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary.
Lynn has said he will steer completely clear for a year of decisions involving six big arms programs on which he lobbied on behalf of Raytheon.
Financial disclosure records show Lynn is to receive a Raytheon defined benefit pension of $4,300 per month starting January 1, 2019.
The records show he is forfeiting Raytheon-awarded shares, not yet “vested” or available for sale, which could have been worth as much as $500,000 were he to have stayed with the company.
Reporting by Jim Wolf; editing by Carol Bishopric, Gary Hill