McCain, Warren Grill Policy Nominee over Lockheed Ties

John Rood, the nominee to be the next Pentagon under secretary for policy, testifies at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday. Screenshot photo

The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding off its vote on the president’s choice for the Pentagon’s undersecretary for policy after multiple senators said the nominee’s answers about potential conflicts of interests were not satisfactory.

John Rood, currently a senior vice president at Lockheed Martin, received persistent questions during his nomination hearing on Thursday about potential conflicts of interests if confirmed. The committee ultimately asked Rood for detailed written responses about the issue before it would proceed with a vote on his confirmation.

In the closing minutes of the hearing, Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked Rood whether, if confirmed, he would recuse himself from “policy discussion about the sale of Lockheed products via the Foreign Military Sales and financing program,” and Rood was unable to give a succinct answer. After several attempts, he finally said, “I don’t intend to participate in conversations about the sale of Lockheed Martin products.”

But this concession was not enough to satisfy Warren, or Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who chairs the committee and recently warned the Trump Administration that it is nominating too many executives from the “big five” defense contractors for Pentagon positions.

After Rood said that he sees a distinction between how conflict of interest impacts broader policy discussions and discussions around the sales of particular weapons systems, Warren said, “I don’t understand why the answer isn’t just yes or no.”

She then drove the point home, asking, “How can the American people have any confidence that the work that is being done by this nominee is being done on the behalf of the American people, rather than on behalf of one of the big five defense contractors?”

McCain thanked Warren for raising the question and told Rood, “I suggest you answer the question or you’re going to have trouble getting through this Committee.”

But in the end, Rood did not get it right, and McCain told him “I don’t like your answers, most of us don’t like your answers.” As a result, he told Rood the Committee would give him “questioning in writing, because obviously you are ducking the answer here.”

Also testifying at the confirmation hearing was Randall Schriver, who is nominated to be assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs.