Warren Extracts Agreement for Nominees to Refuse Defense Industry Work for 4 Years

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the IRS budget request on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 8, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool via AP)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has lifted two nomination holds on prospective Defense Department officials after they agreed to stay out of the defense industry for at least four years following their work at the Pentagon, an aide familiar with the agreement confirmed to Military.com.

The Democratic senator from Massachusetts halted the nominations of Frank Kendall, President Joe Biden's pick to be the next Air Force secretary, and Heidi Shyu, put forward to be the Pentagon's research and development chief, pending their personal commitments to break the so-called ubiquitous military-defense revolving door in Washington. Inside Defense was first to report the news.

Kendall and Shyu have agreed to avoid working for defense firms for four years after their turns in the administration, up from the two years mandated by law, and won't seek a waiver to amend their ethics agreements, the aide said Tuesday. The two also agreed to recuse themselves from any decisions that involve their former employers during their government service.

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The initiative is just one step of Warren's broader work to stop defense contractors from hiring former senior government officials for four years after they leave government.

In 2019, she introduced the Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act to limit the practice, although the bill never received a vote. In January, Warren received a similar pledge from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to recuse himself from any work related to Raytheon Technologies, where he was a member of the board of directors.

"This is precisely the kind of thing that senators should be doing to ensure that we shore up our system to make sure that there's integrity, and that there isn't even the perception that people are going to be using their public service to advance their own personal financial interests," said Mandy Smithberger, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight.

Smithberger said Warren's efforts are reminiscent of the late Sen. John McCain, who also kept a close eye on defense contractors filling top posts at the Pentagon.

"We don't even want the appearance that decisions are being made because of who someone's prior employers were," Smithberger said in an interview. "[Any] kinds of appearances of conflicts of interest can be extremely costly to the department, and can delay programs -- so they need to get their house in order."

Besides Warren, Sens. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, and Gary Peters, a Democrat from Michigan, have reportedly also put holds on Kendall's nomination for various reasons. Air Force Magazine reported Peters held up Kendall's nomination over the future of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter international training center, which was awarded to Arkansas' Ebbing Air National Guard Base over Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan.

In a statement, an aide from Lee's office would not comment on the matter, and a representative from Peters' office did not reply to a message before publication.

Kendall spent 10 years on active duty and retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Army Reserve. Under the Obama administration, he served as the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics at the Pentagon between 2012 and 2017. He was previously the vice president of engineering for Raytheon.

Shyu was formerly the U.S. Army's top acquisition official between 2012 and 2016. Like Kendall, she previously also worked with Raytheon.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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