DOD Puts Forward Defense of Ethics Agreements Amid Shanahan Probe

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan attends the U.S. Central Command change of command, in Tampa, Fla., on March 28, 2019. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando.

The Pentagon on Friday put forward a defense of its internal ethics process, which has received scrutiny as the Defense Department Inspector General has opened an investigation into Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan’s dealings with his former employer, Boeing.

On Friday, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Ellen Lord met briefly with reporters, and said she is also under an ethics agreement because of her former position as president and CEO of Textron Systems Corporation.

Lord said “adhering to the agreement is my responsibility,” and she works with her staff who has been trained to intervene if a conflict arises.

The Pentagon has a “robust process” in place to avoid conflicts of interest, which focuses on blocking former industry executives who are now in public service from working on policies or contracts that could benefit their former employer.

A senior defense official told reporters that Shanahan’s ethics agreement goes “above and beyond” what is required, because his agreement, which forces him to recuse himself from dealings with Boeing, does not expire. However, Lord’s ethics agreement expires after a year.

The DOD IG announced earlier this month it is investigating Shanahan after receiving complaints that he may have violated his ethics rules, a move Shanahan told lawmakers he welcomes.