When President Obama nominated former Raytheon lobbyist William J. Lynn III as deputy defense secretary early in his administration, critics railed that the move clashed with Mr. Obama’s campaign pledge to close the revolving door between government and the defense industry.
Now that Mr. Lynn is leaving, Mr. Obama wants to promote the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Ashton Carter, to the job. But ethics forms show that despite his reputation as an academic, Mr. Carter earned significant income in recent years from the defense industry while teaching at Harvard University.
The White House announcement of Mr. Carter’s nomination this week hailed his years at Harvard, but made no mention of the consulting work he did while employed as a professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
While teaching at Harvard, he earned $238,235 from Jan. 1, 2008, through March 18, 2009, when he signed a financial disclosure form just prior to joining the Pentagon as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
Over the same period, Mr. Carter received $65,000 from the Mitre Corp., which manages federally funded research and development centers, where he was a trustee, and more than $100,000 from Global Technology Partners, a defense consulting firm founded by William J. Perry, who served as defense secretary from 1994 to 1997.
Mr. Carter reported earning $20,000 in consulting fees from Goldman Sachs, and he received $10,000 from Raytheon for what was described on Mr. Carter’s ethics form as “meeting fee and memoranda.”
Mr. Carter is one of more than 30 officials in various federal agencies and at the White House who have been given waivers from Mr. Obama’s ethics rules. In Mr. Carter’s case, the waiver was issued after his 2009 appointment to the Pentagon, and concerned consulting work he did for defense contractor Textron. According to the waiver, he “provided specific business advice” on a weapons system called the Sensor Fused Weapon. The last year of Defense funding for the weapon system was in fiscal 2007.
Ethics forms also show Mr. Carter gave strategic advice to Textron on the company’s headquarters, “trends in military technology and strategy, and how and where military platforms and weapons systems could be deployed effectively in the Defense Department’s theaters of operation.”
Mr. Carter reported on his financial disclosure report, through his position at Global Technology Partners, that he consulted for Textron and other clients of Global Partners, including McKinsey & Co. and Constellation Energy & Gas.
His other sources of income while at Harvard included a $10,000 essay fee from the Center for a New American Security and a $2,000 speaking fee from the Analysis Group.
Under Mr. Obama’s ethics rules, appointees are barred for two years from “participating in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly or substantially related” to former employers and clients.
The Pentagon referred questions about Mr. Carter’s consulting work to the White House, which said he will have to recuse himself from matters involving Harvard but no other former clients.
“Under the Obama ethics pledge, if confirmed to be deputy secretary of defense, Dr. Carter will be recused for a period of two years from matters that are directly and substantially related to his former employer, Harvard University,” White House spokeswoman Tanya Bradsher said.
“This recusal is required because he resigned from his tenured position at Harvard University in April 2011,” she said. “At this time, the Department of Defense does not anticipate that he will need a waiver of any provision of the Obama ethics pledge to serve as the deputy secretary of defense.”
Harvard officials declined to comment on Mr. Carter’s consulting work while he taught at the university.
Harvard spokesman Doug Gavel said the university has “fairly strict conflict of interest rules.” He said school policy dictates that the university does not comment on specific faculty members.
It’s unclear who will replace Mr. Carter as the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, but one possibility is Frank Kendall III, who has served under Mr. Carter as the deputy undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics.
Before joining the Pentagon, Mr. Kendall consulted for defense contractor SAIC Inc. and Centra Technology.
However, Mr. Kendall declined to list the identities of six other private-sector clients, The Washington Times reported in 2009.
Federal ethics rules allow nominees to keep the names of former clients a secret in limited circumstances, such as when there was a confidentiality agreement or in matters involving grand jury testimony.
In 2009, the White House stood by Mr. Kendall’s decision not to disclose his past clients, stating in an email that he was “committed to adhering to the highest standards of ethical conduct.”