WASHINGTON — Eric Chewning, a former defense official who most recently served as chief of staff to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, has returned to consulting giant McKinsey & Company.

Starting Monday, the former official will return as a partner, picking up a role he held from 2014-2017 before departing for the Pentagon.

“We’re excited to have one of the world’s most respected experts on the defense industry rejoin McKinsey,” Varun Marya, senior partner and Americas leader of McKinsey’s aerospace and defense practice, told Defense News. “Eric will bring his expertise to support clients across several pillars of the U.S. economy, including aerospace and defense, electronics and semi-conductors.”

In 2017, Chewning was confirmed as deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy, a time period that included him playing a major role in a presidentially-mandated study of the defense industrial base. Coming out of that study, Chewning spearheaded the efforts to use the Defense Production Act to bolster vulnerable production lines.

Then in January 2019, he was tapped by then-acting secretary of defense Pat Shanahan to serve as chief of staff. When Shanahan departed and was replaced by now-secretary Esper, Chewning stayed on, before departing earlier this year.

Chewning returns to the consulting firm at a time when the defense industry, in particular the small and mid-tier firms he attempted to bolster while holding the industrial base job, are reeling from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

While his business areas have obvious crossover with his Pentagon experiences, McKinsey says it has barred Chewning from working on any Pentagon-related projects for one year, in addition to traditional government-mandated restrictions on former officials. The company has also pledged to confer with the Standards of Conduct Office at the department if any questions of conflict arise.

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.

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