January 9th, 2009
11:28 AM ET

Obama appointments a lobbyist as Deputy Defense Secretary?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/08/defense.appointments/art.obama.afp.gi.jpg caption="President-elect Barack Obama has chosen a defense expert and lobbyist for deputy secretary of defense."]

Adam Levine
CNN Supervising Producer

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 be Deputy Secretary of Defense to Secretary Robert Gates. 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 and is developing a global positioning satellite communication system with the Air Force.

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

Mr. 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 Mr. Lynn's qualifications and the recommendations that came from both Republicans and Democrats made Lynn 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 campaign promise that "no political 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 Sec. Gates, who will continue to head the Defense Department under the next president, is making cutting the Pentagon budget a priority and Lynn would be involved at some level.

"There will be close scrutiny of the budget," said Sec. Gates soon after being appointed Obama's Secretary of Defense.

The announcement today 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 Senator Jack Reed (R-RI) and Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who 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 in a statement.

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

"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: Barack Obama • Keeping Them Honest
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. olive mai

    Maybe this is a way to get him to stop lobbying? WE shall all find out sooner or later! We have almost nothing left to lose!

    January 10, 2009 at 1:20 am |
  2. Annie Kate

    Many lobbyists are extremely intelligent people and very proficient in their fields. They shouldn't be excluded from consideration because of their lobbying experience – to work in the Administration they would have to give the lobbying up as a matter of course. With the appropriate safeguards and oversight this could work out quite well for the country. Having someone in an office who actually knows what they are doing and know the background of the problems they face will be a different experience after the past 8 years. Let's give it a chance to work – I'm sure that if it doesn't Obama will be the first to admit it and to replace the person.

    January 9, 2009 at 6:55 pm |
  3. Betty, Virginia

    Yea... like having experience worked for us so well the last eight years. I"d rather have leaders iintelligent enough to make decisions than those entrenched on the wrong path.

    January 9, 2009 at 6:43 pm |
  4. Chris

    How about Obama the hypocrite.......

    January 9, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  5. Jim M

    Am I missing the point. Aren't the presidents and vice presidents of all firms having government business, directly or indirectly lobbiests?
    When the CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler appeared before Congress, weren't they lobbying?
    Since when is tapping a top executive from a commercial enterprise an error in judgement – other than Dick Chaney?

    January 9, 2009 at 5:34 pm |
  6. Joanne, Solvay, NY

    Oh please, tell me this isn't so!

    January 9, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  7. JC- Los Angeles

    Obama is the master of perception is reality and the ultimate face man while his wife is his brain.

    He was going to change the way things were done in Washington and started by selecting a Clinton? Rham Emanuel? Leon Panetta? A TV doctor? and now a lobbyist?

    This is too hilarious for words; Michelle seems to be slipping; I can't wait to hear what role he has planned for Keifer Sutherland.

    January 9, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  8. Charlotte D

    Is this cherry picking or is this sound judgement? I was more confused after I read the article than before. Maybe this means that in the arena of defense there are no clear lines between lobbyists and those who are lobbied–the black and white of it is not crystal clear. Do people float between the two sides of the coin with ease depending on who is in office or what wars are going on? Does Raytheon have competition that could gain or lose with this pick? E.g., Raytheon may lose out on some contracts that they should have gotten because Lynn has to bend over backwards to show that he is not playing favorites.

    Whatever, this bears further scrutiny and if Lynn is appointed I hope that CNN will "keep them honest" as always.

    January 9, 2009 at 12:18 pm |