The Defense Department’s Office of the Inspector General has opened an ethics investigation into Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, it announced on Wednesday.
Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, allegedly Boeing and speaking poorly of its competitors in a role in which he swore to be recused from matters involving his former employer.
Unnamed sources within the government, quoted by Politico, said that Shanahan “kind of went off” about Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program at a Republican lawmakers’ retreat and criticized Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson in a meeting.
“If it had gone to Boeing, it would be done much better,” Shanahan is quoted as saying.
The F-35 fighter jet program is expected to cost $1.5 trillion over 55 years of operation.
Shanahan’s office commented, “Under his ethics agreement, Mr. Shanahan has recused himself for the duration of his service in the Department of Defense from participating personally and substantially in matters in which the Boeing Company is a party.”
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) requested Shanahan respond to the reports in late January. This was followed up by a request for an investigation (based on the Politico reporting) by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group.
Shanahan began his role as acting defense secretary at the end of 2018 after James Mattis left the role. Prior to that Shanahan was assistant defense secretary in 2017 and managed commercial airplane programs at Boeing as part of his 31-year career with the company.
Shanahan is said to be in line to be named defense secretary, with President Donald Trump stating in February that Shanahan may take charge of the Pentagon “for a long time.”