WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate easily confirmed John Rood as undersecretary of defense for policy, in an 81-7 vote Wednesday, overruling lawmaker concerns that industry executives are overrepresented in the Trump administration’s Pentagon.
Rood, who most recently was vice president for international sales at Lockheed Martin, now fills a key vacancy in the team of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis – a job that had been empty since the Trump administration came to office almost a year ago.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in a floor speech that her “No” vote was because Rood refused to rule out waivers to an ethics agreement that bars him from taking any part in Lockheed business for two years. She also argued against the number of defense industry executives in senior DoD posts.
“No taxpayer should have to wonder whether the top policy-makers at the Pentagon are pushing defense products and foreign military sales for any reason other than the protection of the United States of America,” said Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “No American should have to wonder whether the Defense Department is acting to protect the national interests of our nation or the financial interests of the five giant defense contractors.”
After President Trump announced Rood for the job in mid-October, the nomination stalled for weeks after a testy confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee. Its chairman, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., expressed frustration at Rood’s vague answers to Warren’s questions about him recusing himself.
Warren, in her floor speech, said Rood had since sent her a message to decline on the grounds that it might hinder his ability to do his job.
Among major jobs filled from the defense industry are Patrick Shanahan, a Boeing vice president who is now deputy secretary of defense; Mark Esper, a Raytheon executive who is now Army secretary; Ellen Lord, a Textron executive who now heads the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; and Ryan McCarthy, the undersecretary of the Army who previously worked at Lockheed.
The USD-P job is often viewed as the third most important civilian role in the building, with oversight of everything from homeland defense, nonproliferation and arms control, and regional policies for areas covered by the combatant commands; reviewing war plans; maintaining the Pentagon’s technological edge; and handling bilateral relationships with allies.
During the administration of George W. Bush, Rood served as both acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, and assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, and previously worked as deputy assistant secretary of defense for forces policy.
David Trachtenberg, who has been serving as the acting USD-P since his confirmation in October, will now assume his intended responsibility as Rood’s deputy.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.