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Senate easily confirms Pentagon's No. 3 despite opposition from Elizabeth Warren

010318 Tritten senate confirms rood pic
John Rood is taking the undersecretary for policy position after most recently serving as a Lockheed Martin vice president in charge of growing the defense giant's international business in about 70 countries. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek )

The Senate overwhelmingly confirmed John Rood to the Pentagon’s No. 3 position on Wednesday despite Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s opposition and concerns over conflicts of interest.

The final vote tally was 81-7, as several senators did not make roll call.

Rood is taking the undersecretary for policy position after most recently serving as a Lockheed Martin vice president in charge of growing the defense giant’s international business in about 70 countries. He also served in the State Department as an acting undersecretary and sat on the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration.

It was Rood’s work overseeing Lockheed’s overseas arms sales and the possibility that he could again deal with it as a Pentagon official that triggered Warren’s opposition. She and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had grilled Rood about a potential conflict of interest before Senate Armed Services Committee in November.

“The defense industry in America is powerful and President Trump has stocked the Pentagon with an unprecedented number of nominees directly from the defense industry,” Warren, D-Mass., said on the Senate floor.

Rood is the latest example of that trend, she said. He and other nominees from industry will oversee billions of dollars in annual defense contracts.

“Without strict ethics rules and oversight these nominees have the power to significantly influence the profitability of their former employers, the same companies that may, once again, be the nominees’ future employers after they have finished their government service,” Warren said.

Rood signed an agreement with the Office of Government Ethics that bars him from being involved in Lockheed business for two years. He also divested his interest in the company, which is the country’s largest defense contractor and also the prime contractor for the multinational F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

“Senator, this is a matter I take very seriously. I’ve consulted with the Defense Department’s chief ethics counselor including as recently as yesterday about that specific matter,” Rood said during his November confirmation hearing. “The department has well-established processes in place. I’ve recused from any particular matter involving Lockheed Martin for a period of two years.”

Still, Rood refused to say during his Armed Services hearing whether he would seek a waiver to the ethics agreement that could allow him to deal with Lockheed business despite frustrated prodding by McCain, who eventually said the committee would require more written responses before moving the nomination.

“It is not difficult, you should not be making decisions that are relating to your previous employer or would affect the fortunes of one of them,” McCain said. “So I don’t like your answers, most of us don’t like your answers.”

The Armed Services ended up reporting Rood’s nomination to the Senate floor on Nov. 30.