Trump's acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has a far too cozy relationship with his previous employer Boeing.
Late last year, after Trump forced out his then-Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, he named Patrick Shanahan as acting secretary. Shanahan had spent time as Mattis' Deputy Director, but otherwise had no foreign policy or military experience. What Shanahan did have, though, was three decades of experience working for Boeing.
Now, it looks like his cozy relationship with his former employee may pose an ethics problem for Shanahan.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) just filed a complaint with the acting inspector general of the Defense Department. In that complaint, they're asking for an investigation into whether Shanahan impermissibly promotes Boeing's military products while disparaging other companies, such as Lockheed Martin.
Doing that is a violation of the standards of ethical conduct for employees of the executive branch, which Shanahan had to sign when he joined the administration. Those standards prohibit using a public office for private gain and failing to be impartial in decisionmaking. He also signed an additional ethics pledge particular to Boeing, requiring him to recuse himself from anything related to Boeing.
That isn't happening.
Since becoming acting secretary, Shanahan has relentlessly promoted Boeing, including forcing the Air Force to buy up to 80 of Boeing's F-15Xs in the next five years, in spite of the fact that the Air Force says they don't want them.
Shanahan also isn't shy about dissing Boeing's competitors. He called Lockheed Martin's fighter jet "fucked up" and said that Lockheed doesn't know how to run a program.
In any other administration, this behavior would be disqualifying. Here, it will likely get Shanahan a promotion. It looks like no one else wants the job of Secretary of Defense, so Shanahan's acting title may soon become permanent.
Boeing has been trying to buy Trump via other channels as well. They donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration and their CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, has made the pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to curry favor with Trump.
And of course Muilenburg had Trump's ear as the tragedy of the Boeing 737 Max unfolded. While most other countries were grounding the planes, Trump was chatting on the phone with Muilenberg, who was assuring him everything was just fine.
A defense secretary in bed with Boeing, getting the Air Force to waste $1 billion on planes it doesn't want. Boeing's CEO with a speed dial to Trump, telling him everything is just fine even as his company's planes fall out of the sky. Taken together, they're the very essence of this corrupt administration.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.