DOD releases Shanahan's ethics agreement amid investigation

By Tony Bertuca  
March 22, 2019 at 3:57 PM

The Pentagon today released acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan's ethics agreement, which details the “screening arrangement” he implemented to ensure he is not improperly involved in matters related to Boeing, his former employer for more than 30 years.

The release of the agreement follows an announcement from the Defense Department inspector general that it will investigate whether Shanahan violated ethics rules and improperly favored Boeing in the awarding of defense contracts.

Shanahan's agreement states that for a period of two years he will not participate "personally and substantially in any particular matter . . . directly and substantially related to the Boeing Company."

Furthermore, Shanahan agreed that for the duration of his service he will "ensure that participation in a matter involving Boeing would not cause a person to question my impartiality."

To that end, Shanahan instructed his staff to "screen all matters" that may involve Boeing.

"If any screener determines that Boeing is or represents a party to the matter, he or she will refer the matter, without my knowledge or involvement, to an appropriate alternative senior defense official for action and assignment," the agreement reads. "In order to make sure that I do not inadvertently participate in matters from which I should be recused, I am directing each of my screeners to seek the assistance of [the DOD Standards of Conduct Office] if he or she is uncertain whether I may participate in a matter."

The ongoing IG investigation, meanwhile, stems from an ethics complaint filed against Shanahan last week by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which cited media reports alleging he made "numerous statements" promoting Boeing and disparaging the company's competitors in the presence of subordinates.

The complaint also cites news reports asserting that Shanahan "prodded" DOD to include funding for more Boeing-produced fighter jets in the fiscal year 2020 budget. But senior defense officials say the decision was made by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and DOD's cost assessment and program evaluation shop.

Shanahan, who is angling to be nominated by President Trump to be the permanent defense secretary, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week he would welcome any investigation into his conduct or his relationship with Boeing.

In a statement earlier this week, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Buccino said Shanahan "has at all times remained committed to upholding his ethics agreement filed with the DOD."

"This agreement ensures any matters pertaining to Boeing are handled by appropriate officials within the Pentagon to eliminate any perceived or actual conflict of interest issue with Boeing," he added.