Pentagon watchdog probing whether acting chief boosted Boeing

Pentagon watchdog probing whether acting chief boosted Boeing
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The Pentagon’s watchdog is opening an investigation into whether acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanTrump admin to discuss sending additional military force to Middle East amid Iran tensions: report Trump admin to discuss sending additional military force to Middle East amid Iran tensions: report Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale MORE violated ethics rules and promoted his former employer Boeing while working in government.

"The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General has decided to investigate complaints we recently received that Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan allegedly took actions to promote his former employer, Boeing, and disparage its competitors, allegedly in violation of ethics rules," inspector general spokeswoman Dwrena Allen said in a statement Wednesday.

"In his recent Senate Armed Services Committee testimony, Acting Secretary Shanahan stated that he supported an investigation into these allegations," Allen added. "We have informed him that we have initiated this investigation."

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The announcement comes a week after an outside watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), requested such an investigation.

It also comes as speculation intensifies over whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE will nominate Shanahan to take the Defense secretary job full time. Shanahan previously served as deputy secretary before taking the helm after James MattisJames Norman MattisTop nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April Top nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April Overnight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One MORE resigned in December.

In response to the inspector general's announcement, Shanahan's spokesman said he continues to follow the ethics agreement in which he agreed to recuse himself from matters involving Boeing.

"Acting Secretary Shanahan has at all times remained committed to upholding his ethics agreement filed with the DoD," Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino said. "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."

Prior to joining the Trump administration in July 2017 as the deputy Defense secretary, Shanahan worked for Boeing, a defense contractor, for 30 years.

CREW’s nine-page complaint about Shanahan largely centers on the Pentagon’s decision to buy Boeing-made F-15Xs for the first time in years and a Politico report that Shanahan disparaged Boeing’s competitors in private conversations at the Pentagon.

The Pentagon’s fiscal 2020 request calls for eight F-15Xs. It's the first time since 2001 the department wants to buy the fourth-generation fighter jet.

Air Force officials have said their original budget plans did not include the F-15X. The Pentagon has said it was Mattis's decision.

Meanwhile, Shanahan in private has reportedly bashed Boeing competitor Lockheed Martin’s handling the F-35 fighter jet program, saying the plane is “f---ed up” and that Lockheed “doesn’t know how to run a program.”

The $400 billion program has been criticized by others in Washington, including most prominently Trump, who shortly after election in 2016 called costs associated with the program "out of control." More recently, though, Trump has praised the jet.

The day after the CREW request, Shanahan testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee at a regularly scheduled budget hearing. Asked at the hearing whether he would support an investigation like the one CREW was requesting, Shanahan said, “Yes I do.”