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Pentagon pick shows challenges of Obama's ethics rules

William Lynn's lobbyist experience may help him navigate the industry better, say some.

Best man for the job? Deputy Defense secretary nominee William Lynn was a lobbyist for military contractor Raytheon.

US Department of Defense/AP/File

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The man President Obama nominated to become the No. 2 manager at the Pentagon isn't the first person for that job to come from the defense industry. But Mr. Obama's own executive order on ethics has now become a stumbling block as the White House seeks to push the former lobbyist through confirmation.

It is likely that William Lynn will be confirmed by the US Senate in the coming days, but his controversial nomination highlights the challenge of finding qualified candidates for government who have not occupied high-level posts in industry.

The alternative, say defense experts, is to pick career bureaucrats or former uniformed officers who may find it harder to deal with the defense industry.

"Without his industry background, Lynn really wouldn't understand the job he is about to be given," says Loren Thompson, a senior analyst and chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a public-policy research group outside Washington. "Understanding weapons production and industrial capabilities is central to the job of being deputy secretary."

Mr. Lynn is a former lobbyist with defense giant Raytheon, which among other programs builds missile and satellite systems. He left that position last year, but Obama's "revolving door ban" bars lobbyists from working in government for two years. Lynn would need a waiver from the ban to take up the post.


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