Trump's acting defence chief is under investigation for allegedly trashing the F-35 at the Pentagon

  • Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan is reportedly under investigation for alleged ethics violations, multiple outlets reported.
  • Shanahan is said to have boosted his former employer, Boeing, at the Pentagon while criticising competitor Lockheed Martin and its prized F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter.
  • During a recent congressional hearing, Shanahan said he welcomed an investigation into these allegations, which he denies.

Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive who took over at the Pentagon in January after the stunning resignation of Jim Mattis, is reportedly under investigation for alleged ethics violations, the Department of Defence Office of Inspector General confirmed Wednesday.

“The Department of Defence 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,” a DOD IG spokesperson told POLITICO, which reported in January that Shanahan had been critical of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

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A former senior Defence Department official told Politico that Shanahan previously described the F-35 stealth fighter as “f—ed up” and said its maker, Lockheed Martin, “doesn’t know how to run a program.”

In a press briefing with Pentagon reporters in late January, Shanahan, who worked at Boeing for 31 years before joining the Department of Defence, took a thinly veiled jab at the F-35 while justifying his biases.

“Am I still wearing a Boeing hat? I think that’s just noise,” he said. “I’m biased towards performance. I am biased toward giving taxpayers their money’s worth. The F-35 unequivocally, I can say, has a lot of opportunity for more performance.”

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Indeed, the F-35 continues to have problems. Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan independent watchdog, reported Tuesday that the stealth fighter “continues to dramatically underperform in crucial areas including availability and reliability, cyber-vulnerability testing, and life-expectancy testing.”

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But, questions surround not only Shanahan’s comments but also reports of his involvement in the Pentagon’s decision to buy more of Boeing’s F-15X fighter jets, aircraft the US Air Force doesn’t actually want.

The investigation into Shanahan’s behaviour comes just days after Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) submitted a nine-page complaint to DOD IG calling for the inspector general to investigate his ties to his former company.

Shanahan found out Tuesday that he is under investigation.

“Acting Secretary Shanahan has at all times remained committed to upholding his ethics agreement filed with the DoD,” a Pentagon spokesperson told POLITICO’s David Brown. “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.”

During a recent testimony before the Senate Armed Service Committee, Shanahan said that he welcomes the investigation, maintaining that his actions have consistently ethical.

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