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Gates Backs Lynn for Key Defense Post

Wm Lynn_lo2.jpgWilliam J. Lynn III
January 24, 2009
Inside GNSS, January/February 2009

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(Updated Jan.26) President Barack Obama's nomination of William J. Lynn III, a senior vice-president at Raytheon Corporation, for deputy secretary of defense and his granting Lynn a waiver from the new administration's own rules on former lobbyists has provoked considerable criticism from some quarters.

As the number two official in the Department of Defense (DoD), Lynn would report directly to Robert Gates, the current secretary of defense who has continued in that position in the new administration, the only holdover from ex-President Bush's cabinet. Gates has come out strongly in support of Lynn, saying that he requested the waiver from the president.

Among other responsibilities, the deputy secretary serves as the co-chair of
the Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Executive
Committee (ExCom). Lynn would succeed Gordon England, who has paid a lot of attention to GPS during his term in office and enhanced the role of the PNT ExCom as an arbiter and advocate for the GPS program throughout the federal government.

Although Lynn apparently hasn’t had a close association with the GPS program, in his role as Raytheon’s senior vice-president for government operations and strategy he is the chief liaison with federal executive and legislative branches for a company that does. Raytheon is the prime contractor for the Federal Aviation Administration’s GPS Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and leads one of two competing teams seeking the contract to build the next-generation GPS operational control segment (OCX).

Overall, Raytheon reportedly did $18.3 billion worth of business with the U.S. government in 2007. Lynn has agreed to sell his stock in Raytheon and other defense contractors to avoid potential conflicts of interest in the future.

According to an Associated Press report, until early last year Lynn had lobbied Congress and federal agencies on a variety of programs including missiles, sensors and radar, advanced technology programs, and space and intelligence funding. That put Lynn inside the two-year ban on lobbing of federal agencies and Congress that Obama has set for new appointees — hence, the need for a waiver in the case of the Raytheon executive.

In a January 22 press conference, Gates defended that decision, noting, "People in the transition certainly recognized that it [Lynn’s Raytheon role] was an issue. And I interviewed Bill Lynn. I was very impressed with his credentials. He came with the highest recommendations of a number of people that I respect a lot. And I asked that an exception be made because I felt that he could play the role of a deputy — of the deputy — in a better manner than anybody else that I saw."

Gates has been “intimately involved” in the process of identifying and interviewing appropriate candidates for various vacancies throughout the department, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell.

Morrell added that, before Obama made his announcement, Gates has been busy working with the president-elect’s transition team to identify appropriate candidates for various vacancies throughout the department and interview them personally.

“I think he feels as though . . . we’ve made some good progress toward identifying some very capable candidates to fill some very big jobs within the department,” Morrell said.

Among the people expressing concern about the nomination and waiver are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which conducted a hearing on Lynn's nomination last week. Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Michigan) said that under congressional
ethics rules, Lynn would still have to recuse himself for one year from
matters related to Raytheon, but he says he will back the waiver.

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) the ranking Republican on the Armed
Forces Committee and the Republican nominee in last November's presidential election, said on Sunday, January 25: "I have asked to see which areas that Mr. Lynn will be recused from. But I think we need to probably move forward with his nomination."

Lynn returns to the capital as no stranger to either DoD or Congress. From 1997 to 2001, Lynn served as one of five under secretaries of defense, acting as the department’s comptroller and principal advisor to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for all budgetary and fiscal matters.

Another significant DoD position held by Lynn was that of OSD director of program analysis and evaluation (PA&E) from 1993 to 1997, where he oversaw all aspects of the DoD’s strategic planning process.

Raytheon recently announced that its OCX team completed the segment design review and modernized capability engineering model demonstration on Dec. 13, 2008. The company is working under a $160 million Phase A system design and risk reduction contract awarded by the GPS Wing in November 2007. A team led by Northrop Grumman is the other contender for the OCX contract. A final decision on the OCX prime contract is expected later this year.

Before entering the DoD in 1993, Lynn served for six years on the staff of Senator Edward Kennedy as liaison to the Senate Armed Services Committee. He has also been a Senior Fellow at the National Defense University, on the professional staff at the Institute for Defense Analyses and served as the executive director of the Defense Organization Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Lynn has a law degree from Cornell Law School and a Master's in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

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