Ashton Carter, frontrunner to be the next Defense secretary, needed a special waiver to join the Pentagon back in 2009 because of his history of working for the defense contracting industry.
Mr. Carter is one of more than 40 high-ranking political appointees the Obama administration has granted ethics waivers to allow them to serve in government in spite of the president’s promise to halt the revolving door between federal employees and businesses or special interest groups.
White House officials stressed Mr. Carter’s years in academia and a previous stint at the Pentagon in an announcement on his nomination in 2009, but omitted any mention of his defense industry consulting work at the time.
News outlets reported Tuesday that Mr. Carter is the frontrunner to replace Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who announced his resignation last week. The Associated Press quoted Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s top Republican, as saying he had been told that Mr. Carter was the nominee, though the White House declined to confirm that a decision had been made.
The Washington Times reported in 2011 that Mr. Carter received almost as much money from defense consulting work as he did from Harvard University before he joined the Obama Administration in 2009 as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
Two years later, the White House promoted him to deputy secretary.
While teaching at Harvard, he earned $238,235 from Jan. 1, 2008, through March 18, 2009, when he signed a financial disclosure before joining the Pentagon. Over the same period, he received $65,000 from the Mitre Corp., which manages federally funded research and development centers and consults for the Defense Department 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 also 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.”
In Mr. Carter’s case, the waiver was issued just after his 2009 appointment to the Pentagon, focusing on 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.
In 2011, a White House spokeswoman said Mr. Carter would be recused from two years from participating in matters involving Harvard because he resigned his tenured position there in 2011.
Mr. Carter’s earnings from the defense industry pale compared to other appointees, such as Air Force Secretary Deborah James, who was earning more than $500,000 per-year as an executive at defense contractor SAIC when she was nominated last year.