January 8th, 2009
07:30 PM ET
13 years ago

Obama picks defense lobbyist as deputy defense secretary

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/08/art.bocuface0108.gi.jpg caption="President-elect Obama's campaign speeches often mentioned reducing the influence of lobbyists and special interests on the federal government."]

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama, who campaigned on lessening the influence of lobbyists in government, has chosen a defense expert who is currently a vice president and lobbyist for one of the country's biggest defense contractors to be his deputy secretary of defense.

Obama's transition office announced that William Lynn, an undersecretary of defense in President Bill Clinton's second term, is nominated to Defense Secretary Robert Gates' deputy.

Lynn is currently a senior vice president at Raytheon, which has billions of dollars in Defense Department contracts and is the maker of the Army's Patriot Missile system and the Tomahawk missile used by the Navy. The company is also developing a global positioning satellite communication system with the Air Force.

As deputy secretary, Lynn would be involved in the process of budgeting and acquisitions, in addition to running the day-to-day operations of the Defense Department.

Obama's transition office acknowledged that appointing a lobbyist did not, on the face of it, seem in line with the president-elect's ethics stance but that Lynn's qualifications and the recommendations that came from both Republicans and Democrats made him the top candidate.

"Because Mr. Lynn came so highly recommended from experts across the political spectrum, the president-elect felt it was critical that he fill this position," said Obama transition spokesman Tommy Vietor.

Vietor said Lynn and the transition team would create guidelines that would fit the ethics standards of the new administration.

"We are aware that Mr. Lynn lobbied for Raytheon and are working with Mr. Lynn to craft a role for him that is consistent with the president-elect's high standards while balancing the need to fill this critical national security position," Vietor said.

During the campaign, candidate Obama took a hard stance against the influence of lobbyists in Washington. His campaign Web site included a promise that "no political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years."

Creating that distance could be difficult given that Gates, who was appointed by President Bush, is making cutting the Pentagon budget a priority and Lynn would be involved at some level.

The announcement noted that Lynn's experience both in the public and private sector means he can make "the tough choices necessary to ensure that American tax dollars are spent wisely."

Lynn's supporters, including Sen. Jack Reed, R-Rhode Island, and Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts - whom Lynn worked for on Capital Hill - said in statements that Lynn's experience both in public and private sector make him a strong candidate.

"He's a proven leader in both the public and private sectors of the national security community and his previous service in the Department uniquely qualify him to help the Department run more efficiently and effectively," said Kennedy.

The transition office also announced other Defense Department nominations, including former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Robert Hale for undersecretary of defense and Michele Flournoy, who was part of Obama's Pentagon transition team, for the undersecretary devoted to policy. Gates interviewed Lynn and the other appointments, according to the Pentagon

"He interviewed each of them, came away impressed with their personal character and professional credentials, and recommended the president-elect hire them," said spokesman Geoff Morrell.

Filed under: Obama transition • Pentagon
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. No Incumbents 2010

    But don't worry I had my VW converted into a hybrid.

    January 8, 2009 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  2. Eugene

    Hey, let's go easy here. Lobbyists stay away.

    January 8, 2009 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  3. Unreadable

    Well, if they knew everyone would know he's a lobbyist and they still picked him, that means his merits (expertise, etc.) outweighed all that. So those merits must be huge. Who knows, maybe they are, we'll see.

    And as far as Republicans raising stink about this - well, everyone knows that, as far as Republicans are concerned, only Mark Foley qualifies to protect children and only David Duke qualifies to be their Senate candidate. So who should talk.

    January 8, 2009 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  4. tk in IL

    For the people out there attempting to shift the responsibility of this obvious deviation from the "No lobbyist in my administration" campaign rehtoric, to Gates who interviewed and made the candidate's recommendation, your are feebly trying to still believe in Obama. It doesn't matter WHO makes the recommendation, it still Obama's decision....hence it is Obama who is soley responsible for broken promises......which is absolutely no surprise since the guy has never had an original thought in his mind in the first place. This is just a rerun of the Clinton administration and for the record I did actually vote for Clinton, never voted for Bush in either election, but did not buy one word of this guy's promises to break from the Chicago political game. I live here in Chicagoland and I knew better than to believe it.

    January 8, 2009 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  5. Edward

    Sorry but you don't play games with national security, Obama can hire whoever he feels will do the best job.

    January 8, 2009 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  6. Edward

    I'm just thankful we have all those Clinton Administration graduates. They know what they're doing, even if this clown doesn't.


    Are you sure about that? He's the one nominating them. All you people who are saying that you're glad you didn't vote for change sure don't mind having voted for the worst president in US history. Take your advice? I'd be crazy to.

    January 8, 2009 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  7. Obama, first non-US citizen President!

    I love how all the Obama-saviorites want to throw the article in our face about how Gates interviewed them. The choice is still Obama's and he hired a lobbyist. Raytheon is HUGE in military contracts....well, just what just got bigger. Gates was hired by a Republican, and Obama followed. Yep, change we can believe in. We get to change from 2009 to 1993 with Clinton back in office.

    January 9, 2009 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  8. Obama, first non-US citizen President!

    For the one in California....

    President Bush = Country safe for 8 years, and 1.2 trillion dollar debt
    President Elect Obama = Not in office yet, 1.2 trillion dollar stimulus....(yep, not even in office yet and he is costing us more money. Thanks to all you dumb liberal democrats that believed this guy was your saviour!

    January 9, 2009 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  9. mary in wi

    People who base their comments on half the information available make half-witted statements. Hiring a highly competent individual who happened to be a lobbyist at one point in his/her life isn't selling out to lobbyists. If PE BHO had asked lobbyists for their advice there would be room for complaint. Unfortunately there's a crowd for whom it's more rewarding to spew than to think.

    January 9, 2009 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
1 2 3