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

Obama picks defense lobbyist as deputy defense secretary

President-elect Obama's campaign speeches often mentioned reducing the influence of lobbyists and special interests on the federal government.

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. Nick - West Hills (L.A.), CA

    UGH! Is K Street getting to him already?

    Please, keep your promise and send all lobbyists away somewhere. They made enough $$$ under W.

    January 8, 2009 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  2. empty heads voted for an empty vessel

    Come on libs, time to hop on and explain away your hero and his latest HORRIBLE pick (see Panetta, Richardson, Holder) as I thought he hated Lobbyists, ooooooops.

    Change was and is a slogan to sway the college aged "children" who fell for that phony as all hell mantra.

    These same geniuses are the ones that in exit polls did not know who the Secretary of state or the Speaker of the house or incredibly, who William Ayers was, how to stay up on what's important.

    But he speaks so nice (ONLY with a binkyprompter, please Google – Obama – teleprompter – Asthma – Gaffe and have a good look at Mr. Speaker in chief).

    Imploding before even taking office, and EVEN Democrats are hammering him on taxes, his picks, his lack of details.

    Get ready to defend at all costs in 1,2,3

    January 8, 2009 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  3. 12 More Days

    Read the final paragraph you naysayers...the HE in the paragraph is Defence Minister Robert Gates....who interviewed all the people in the article and RECOMMENDED PE Obama hire them.

    As usual CNN an inflammatory headline whicch doesn't truly reflect the contents of the article.

    January 8, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  4. Annie the Democrat

    I have been behind all of President Elect Obamas picks .....until this one.

    This guy has a HUGE conflict of interest!

    We've already had one Cheney..........so lets not make the same mistake twice.

    January 8, 2009 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  5. Scott

    "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."

    He's not even in office yet and he's back tracking on his campaign promises. I think Obama needs to create an Apologist cabinet post for his administration so to explain away his Changes or lack of Change

    January 8, 2009 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  6. Peter

    I often wonder why all these Clinton people. Are there are no other qualified people out there other than the people from the Clinton Administration? I am really disappointed.

    January 8, 2009 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  7. legal in nc

    No suprise to those us that didn't believe the hype of change and hope!

    Imagine if a republican would have selected a lobbyists how the liberals would be screaming and crying.

    This confirms that those that believed the hype have been used by the "magic" one to continue politics as usual. NO CHANGE HERE!

    Enjoy it as your hope for 8 years just went to 4 years!!!!!

    January 8, 2009 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  8. Richard

    Hey! Let's lessen the influence of lobbyists on government. Let's hire them instead!
    – Barack

    January 8, 2009 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  9. Susie

    I don't like this choice at all. I don't care how qualified he is, he has a huge conflict of interest.

    January 8, 2009 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  10. carol

    I have great faith in PE Obama's choices, only he knows who is really qualified for these positions and he feels they can do a good job...he knows we will be watching and expect nothing less than honest government.

    January 8, 2009 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  11. TCM

    haha...so, he's not going to tolerate lobbyists...huh? I gues he didn't mention he'd hire one!

    January 8, 2009 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  12. TCM

    Franklin in SC January 8th, 2009 8:30 pm ET

    Probably the only liberal he could find with experience in national defense.

    haha- good one!

    January 8, 2009 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  13. alvino

    'Puff' and 'empty heads' should have read the entire article. But that would not have been like them.

    Unlike the "Decider" not listening to advice, Obama took the recommendation of Gates. The choice of following the advice of Hannity or of Gates would be a no brainer to everyone but Puff.

    January 8, 2009 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  14. Matt from NYC


    Oh, if this isn't wonderful. He hasn't taken the oath of office and he's already going back on his word. And he should. His word was moronic. Who cares if this guy was a lobbyist if hes the best for the job? Obama's whole campaign was built on insane promises and hand waving trickery, it's nice to see he's not a total fool (even if it makes him a hypocrite).

    January 8, 2009 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  15. Ken Benedict

    Looks to me like some Dumbocrats are beginning to see the light.

    January 8, 2009 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  16. Fed up before it starts

    Obama – Change – please. The snake oil salesman.

    First he essentially reinstates Clinton's entire staff. That's fine with me, but hardly change for the Obama cultists. For all his talk, Obama really does lack imagination.

    And now a fox in the chicken coop. I love this. Obama attacked McCain for having lobbyists on his campaign team. Obama makes McCain look like a Boy Scout leader!

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

    And they'll watch the former lobbyist like a group of savvy hawks!

    January 8, 2009 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  17. Larry

    TO:A woman in California For Obama

    January 8th, 2009 8:09 pm ET

    Well, here come the republicans. If all you can say day after day is Bush kept us safe for seven years-then you need to shut up. I'm sure after JUST four (4) years Obama supporters will be able to say Obama and his staff did much more good than that. Go ahead and criticize this move it doesn't change my opinion any.

    Nothing other than your family member or you being injured or killed by a terrorist,like the thousands in New York on 9/11,will change your biased ,selfish opinion about "Bush kept us safe for seven years"

    January 8, 2009 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  18. Will18E

    the gop'ers need to take a chill pill.
    W ran as a "Washington outsider " in 2000, and then made many appointments to defense to include secretary of the Army from the ranks of Enron.

    January 8, 2009 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  19. Reg

    Puff what are u smokin! Wow we are scared of you man!
    You wish the dummy was back? Hopefully Daschle will get
    confirmed cuz he supports more mental health facilities in rural
    areas thru-out the Country.

    You'll have an opportunity to get well soon!

    January 8, 2009 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  20. SANTE

    I always new that he / Obama/ is fake!!!!
    But how much fake, I still do not know!

    January 8, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  21. Proud American

    TCM January 8th, 2009 10:12 pm ET

    haha…so, he's not going to tolerate lobbyists…huh? I gues he didn't mention he'd hire one!
    And were not going tolerate Idiots. Move on I think bush needs some help packing. lololololol

    January 8, 2009 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  22. Proud American

    Great pick Mr. President.

    January 8, 2009 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Buyer's remorse anyone?

    January 8, 2009 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  24. republican in nc

    To " A woman in CA for obama" What could possible be more important than the security of our country

    January 8, 2009 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  25. No Incumbents 2010

    It doesn't matter. Remember, Obama will speak to all the people who hate us and we will not need any defense. Fore love will abound throughout the world.

    Now I must leave and tye dye some shirts and get an oil change in my VW van.

    January 8, 2009 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
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