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Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan cleared in ethics probe

By Allen Cone
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Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan cleared in ethics probe
Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan watches as President Donald Trump speaks to the media during a cabinet meeting at the White House on January 2. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

April 25 (UPI) -- Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has been cleared by the Pentagon's inspector general after an investigation into possible ethics violations involving ties to Boeing, his former employer.

The Department of Defense's Inspector General's Office announced the decision Thursday after more than 30 witnesses, including Shanahan, were interviewed about allegations he violated ethics agreements by promoting the interests of Boeing and disparaged its competitors.

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"We did not substantiate any of the allegations," the IG's office wrote in the 47-page report. "We determined that Mr. Shanahan fully complied with his ethics agreements and his ethical obligations regarding Boeing. We determined that Mr. Shanahan did not make the alleged comments and did not promote Boeing or disparage its competitors."

In February, an attorney with the Senate Committee on Armed Services forwarded an anonymous allegation to the Pentagon's Office of Inspector General that said Shanahan violated ethics rules by promoting Boeing. He allegedly tried to force the Marine Corps' commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, to buy Boeing F/A-18s, and threatened to cut other Air Force programs unless the Air Force Chief of Staff, General David Goldfein, supported buying Boeing F-15Xs.

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In March, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics asked the inspector general to launch an investigation into whether Shanahan's actions violated his signed ethics agreement of no conflicts of interest with Boeing while at the Pentagon.

"The Office of Inspector General took these allegations seriously, and our 43-page report of investigation, which we released today, describes our conclusions and the facts on which they are based," Glenn Fine, the IG official who oversaw the investigation, said in a statement obtained by CNN. "The evidence showed that Acting Secretary Shanahan fully complied with his ethical obligations and ethical agreements with regard to Boeing and its competitors."

Shanahan "shared his aircraft industry experience as an industrial engineer and supply chain manager to highlight best practices, decrease costs, and increase performance for the DoD's benefit, not to promote Boeing or any specific aircraft," according the report.

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Instead, the report concluded that his comments "were directed at holding contractors accountable and saving the government money, consistent with his duties as Deputy Secretary of Defense."

Specifically, Shanahan did not "repeatedly dump" on Lockheed Martin's F-35 aircraft in meetings as alleged and did not pressure the Air Force to accept Boeing's KC-46 delivery.

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"While Mr. Shanahan did routinely refer to his prior industry experience in meetings, witnesses interpreted it, and told us, that he was doing it to describe his experience and to improve government management of DoD programs, rather than to promote Boeing or its products."

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Shanahan began working for Boeing in 1986, eventually managing the commercial airline and defense programs. That includes the 787 Dreamliner, the company's missile defense systems and several rotorcraft aircraft, including the Osprey, Apache and Chinook.

Shanahan, 56, joined the Pentagon in July 2017 and was promoted to acting defense secretary after Jim Mattis announced his resignation in December.

"No change to the priorities, no change to the strategy," he told reporters in January. "It's really, you know, go faster on the implementation and the execution."

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That includes implementing the national defense strategy that Mattis unveiled last year, including countering China and Russia rather than counterinsurgency fights in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Shanahan, who has never served in the U.S. military, is awaiting President Donald Trump's decision on whether to nominate him for the job permanently.

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Washington, a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Master of Business Administration from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

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Shanahan's position still needs to be filled permanently, as do several others across the Pentagon and U.S. military, including a replacement for Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson following her resignation -- which becomes effective on May 31 -- to become president of the University of Texas at El Paso.

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