American Oversight is suing the Department of Defense (DOD) to shed light on whether Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan’s ties to Boeing have given the company undue influence at the agency. Shanahan has reportedly boosted Boeing — where he worked for 31 years — while serving at DOD, and since his tenure began, the Pentagon has announced new efforts that would significantly benefit the company.
During his June 2017 confirmation hearing, Shanahan committed to taking several steps to distance himself from Boeing, including divesting his financial interests related to the defense contractor and establishing screening mechanisms in his calendar to limit exposure to related matters. Shanahan also signed an ethics agreement barring him from participating in Boeing-related matters.
However, in January, Politico reported that Shanahan had been promoting Boeing at the Pentagon, while criticizing its competitors. In July 2018, Boeing finalized a $3.9 billion Air Force One contract, and Politico also reported that Shanahan repeatedly expressed bias in actions and comments regarding the F-15 and F-35 fighter jet programs.
Following the Politico report, American Oversight filed several Freedom of Information Act requests related to Shanahan’s ties to Boeing. The requests target Shanahan’s communications with Boeing, as well as his ethics determinations and authorizations related to his former employment. The Department of Defense has failed to provide these requested records, prompting today’s lawsuit.
“Acting Secretary Shanahan should be running the Pentagon as a government official concerned with protecting the country, not as a former defense contracting executive,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “In light of the possibility that the acting secretary might fill his role permanently, it’s vital that the public know whether Shanahan is allowing business allegiances to play a role in his management of America’s armed forces.”
See the full complaint below: