White House clears way for Pentagon deputy: Senator

The nomination of William Lynn to be deputy defense secretary came under scrutiny after Obama issued stricter ethics rules as one of his first acts in office.

White House clears way for Pentagon deputy: Senator

The White House has removed an obstacle that was holding up the confirmation of President Barack Obama's nominee to be deputy Pentagon chief, the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee said on Friday.

The nomination of William Lynn, an executive at defense contractor Raytheon, to be deputy defense secretary came under scrutiny after Obama issued stricter ethics rules as one of his first acts in office.

Watchdog groups have called for the nomination to be withdrawn as Obama's new rules ban lobbyists like Lynn from working on issues they have lobbied for in the two years before they entered government.

The watchdogs said Lynn could not be an effective deputy Pentagon chief if he followed those rules.

But Obama's order also allows the administration to exempt people from the rules, and Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the Armed Services Committee, said the White House had issued a waiver for Lynn.

"I support Mr. Lynn's nomination and look forward to prompt consideration by the Senate," Levin said in a statement.

Levin said Lynn would be held to previously existing ethics rules, which state that officials must get specific authorization to be involved in any decision related to their former employer for their first year in government.

"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," he said.

The relationship between defense companies and the Pentagon has long concerned watchdog groups, particularly after a huge procurement scandal in 2004 sent a former top Air Force acquisition official and Boeing Co former chief financial officer to federal prison for ethics violations.

But Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave strong backing to Lynn on Thursday, saying the former Pentagon comptroller came highly recommended and was the best candidate for the job.

As deputy defense secretary, Lynn would be heavily involved in day-to-day management of the Pentagon and play a role in key decisions, including the procurement of weapons systems.

Reuters
Last Mod: 24 Ocak 2009, 17:51
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