Home » Budget Industry » UPDATED: Financier Philip Bilden Withdraws From SECNAV Nomination


UPDATED: Financier Philip Bilden Withdraws From SECNAV Nomination

Philip Bilden

Philip Bilden

This post has been updated to include a statement from Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Philip Bilden.

Financier Philip Bilden has withdrawn himself from consideration to be the next Secretary of the Navy, he said in a Sunday statement. 

In the statement, Bilden said he would be unable to meet the requirements of the Office of Government Ethics requirements for the position without “materially adverse divestment” of his family’s financial interests.

“I fully support the President’s agenda and the [Secretary of Defense James Mattis’] leadership to modernize and rebuild our Navy and Marine Corps, and I will continue to support their efforts outside of the Department of the Navy,” he said in the statement.
“However, after an extensive review process, I have determined that I will not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family’s private financial interests.”

In a Sunday statement, Mattis said the withdrawal “was a personal decision driven by privacy concerns and significant challenges he faced in separating himself from his business interests. While I am disappointed, I understand and his respect his decision, and know that he will continue to support our nation in other ways.”

Mattis also said, “in the coming days I will make a recommendation to President Trump for a leader who can guide our Navy and Marine Corps team as we execute the president’s vision to rebuild our military.”

Bilden was formally nominated as Navy Secretary on Jan. 25 after back-and-forth reports in the media as to whether he or former congressman Randy Forbes would get the job.

The White House called Bilden “a highly successful business leader, former Military Intelligence officer, and Naval War College cybersecurity leader [who] will bring strategic leadership, investment discipline, and Asia Pacific regional and cyber expertise to the Department of the Navy” in its statement announcing Bilden’s selection.

Bilden served as a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1986 to 1996 after attending Georgetown University on an ROTC scholarship. In 1996 he moved to Hong Kong for business and resigned his commission.

In recent years, he had been involved with the Navy through serving on the Board of Directors of the United States Naval Academy Foundation and the Board of Trustees of the Naval War College Foundation. Additionally, one of his sons graduated from the Naval Academy and another is currently a midshipman there, and the White House statement noted that he comes from “a military family with four consecutive generations of seven Bilden Navy and Army officers.”

Former NATO supreme allied commander retired Adm. James Stavridis – who also serves as the chairman of the U.S. Naval Institute Board of Directors – said Bilden’s expertise in Chinese affairs would be an asset.

“He is a man of extraordinary expertise on maritime and nautical affairs. He is an expert on Asia and understands, in particular, China very deeply,” Stavridis told USNI News last month.
“He’s a highly distinguished businessman who understands efficiency. … He has unimpeachable integrity and is one of the kindest, smartest people I have ever met.”

Though an early favorite to take the job, Forbes is considered to be out of contention for the position. Last week he was named a visiting professor at the Naval War College. While the White House approves of Forbes, he was passed over for the SECNAV job by Mattis, who preferred Bilden for the role.

The following are complete statements from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Mr. Philip Bilden:

Statement by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis:

Mr. Philip Bilden has informed me that he has come to the difficult decision to withdraw from consideration to be secretary of the Navy. This was a personal decision driven by privacy concerns and significant challenges he faced in separating himself from his business interests. While I am disappointed, I understand and his respect his decision, and know that he will continue to support our nation in other ways. In the coming days I will make a recommendation to President Trump for a leader who can guide our Navy and Marine Corps team as we execute the president’s vision to rebuild our military.

Statement of Mr. Philip Bilden:

“I informed Secretary of Defense Mattis with regret that I respectfully withdraw from consideration as Nominee for the 76th Secretary of the Navy.

I fully support the President’s agenda and the Secretary’s leadership to modernize and rebuild our Navy and Marine Corps, and I will continue to support their efforts outside of the Department of the Navy.

However, after an extensive review process, I have determined that I will not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family’s private financial interests.

I am deeply grateful for Secretary Mattis’ enduring support and confidence throughout the nomination process.

I have been greatly honored by President Trump’s consideration of me to lead our committed and capable Sailors and Marines who defend our Nation’s interests at home and in harm’s way.”

  • Arctic_Fox

    First, Trump’s Army guy bails. Now, Trump’s Navy guy bails. This situation with on-again, off-again service secretaries is very troubling… What happened with initial vetting? Is it some sort of deep secret that taking a high-vis job like service secretary is intrusive into one’s finances, and even private life? I’m inclined to believe that there’s much going on behind the scenes, to which we are not privy.

    • NavySubNuke

      Check out the War On the Rocks piece today by David Johnson about his own “extreme” vetting [title: “EXTREME VETTING” DENIES THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OUTSIDE TALENT]. While anecdotal it is a perfect example of all that is wrong with our government and DoD today.
      Just another great example of how right Shakespeare was about the first thing we need to do….

      • Curtis Conway

        The vetting process requires overhaul like the Defense Procurement system needs overhaul, and Mattis is on the job. Vetting can go both ways, and it depends upon ‘who’ is enforcing the policy. If the vetting group is righteous, moral, and employ the standard with integrity, then the system works the way it is supposed to. However, over the last decades, there have been some really strange things happening with vetting some individuals, and it was as if the Right Groups, or People (read ‘the swamp’), had to be involved to make sure the new candidate would tow the establishment line. We are trying to exclude, reform, and transcend that concept. Therefore, righteous, moral, and ethical people must be involved in the process.

        • PolicyWonk

          Well, the administration has had its problems finding people to fill various roles. And in its ambition to fill them it might not have as carefully vetted potential candidates as they might’ve wished.

          W/r/t procurement overhaul – I hope you’re right. Mattis cannot do it all himself: unfortunately the HoR’s would have to go along with it – and they’re a major part of the problem; Then the denizens of the service branches who handle procurement also have to go along with it as well – and sadly – a number of them seem to like it the way it is.

          While there are some examples of how to do the job right (the Virginia class SSN’s being a good example), there are many more examples of how to do a lousy job (LCS, EFV, Sgt York, Comanche, FCS, etc.).

          • Curtis Conway

            The National Security Cutter wasn’t that bad, and would be a great base hull-form for a new frigate with all the space & displacement available, particularly if the hull was ice-hardened to take on a 1 meter ice shelf. The Arctic is heating up both figuratively and physically, and presence requirements will increase, but the services will wait till its too late to prepare. The US Coast Guard plans to reduce High Endurance Cutters stationed there, not increase them, and the US Navy has hulls that should not be there in ice-infested waters most of the year.

            Now that the LPD-17 has its problems fixed and is off and running, it goes pretty well, and the LHA-6 is about the same, but the timeline on LHA-7 will be the proof of the pudding. I would like to see that same hull built four (4) more times. A half dozen ‘Lightning Carriers’ with USMC F-35B Lightning IIs on board would fit the bill for most of the tasking on the planet, as long as we are not up against a peer.

            The Mobile Basing platforms have gone well for the most part.

            The P-8A Poseidon is a model program for how it should be done with 50+ units delivered on, or ahead of time, and on or under budget.

            Some of the other procurement programs have been executed so many times it happens rapidly, on cost and on or ahead of time (F-18 contracts for example).

            The US Army’s armor upgrade programs with respect to Size Weight and Power-Cooling (SWaP-C) capacity and automotive support packages and running gear commonality between Bradley IFV, M109A7, and the new AMPV is a real money savers in the long term for life cycle maintenance and logistical support in the field. The new data-links, IR improvements, and situational awareness upgrades will go a long way in the future. Disparate/ unique types of equipment in every vehicle make for a logistical nightmare during combat operations in the field.

            The USMC H-1 upgrade program has rendered great operational savings via commonality, and those numbers are improving with every coming year. I’ve often thought the UH-1Y Venom would make a great shoe-in for the UH-1Ns that are getting long in the tooth in the ICBM missile field protection mission, but the USAF is not going to let go of that ‘transport of more troops’ requirement that moves the cost outside their budget for the number of units they need, and that larger more capable helo will require a whole new support infrastructure. The USAF tanker selection criteria should be adopted here to save multiple-millions in new construction to support a new, larger, more complex helo. I think the UH-1Y Venom meets most of the other requirements, particularly given its operational cost/hour, and SOF combat capability for the acquisition price.

            There are other examples . . . at least from the outside looking in.

    • Curtis Conway

      Not everyone is up to draining the swamp.

  • Kevin McLaughlin

    Trump is in violation of emolument clause, yet no action is being taken to enforce the Constitution. Yet, somehow, cabinet appointees are subject to financial rules which the President is flouting!

    • Jack

      The position of President of the United States of America is not subject to those financial rules, Kevin.

      • George Bolduc

        Maybe the POTUS should be.

      • On Dre

        The president is subject to the emolument clause. Its never been litigated because prior presidents have gone out of their way to avoid violating it…until now. The only people who say it doesn’t apply to Trump is, of course, Trumps and his supporters.
        #SwampThing

    • “No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no
      person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without
      the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office,
      or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 – United States Constitution.

      This clause has never been applied to regular commercial transactions. When our Presidents were plantation owners, they received remuneration for their products sold to foreign entities. The “emolument clause” did not apply. You could make a better case for Obama accepting the Nobel Peace Prize which is awarded by a Norwegian Committee.

  • Jack

    These silly-ass financial requirements are keeping really good people out of federal service. In the meantime, the ones who passed the laws, representatives and senators, enrich themselves with their insider trading schemes. Our federal government has become so ultra-entangled and corrupt that we need to dismantle it, or as President Trump says, we need to drain the swamp. Let’s start with the Department of Education. Just get rid of that monstrosity.

    • NavySubNuke

      Never mind all the members of congress who show up already pretty well off yet somehow make millions upon millions per year. What a joke.
      You have to love how bureaucrats make sure that the only way to join the corrupt pool of waste known as federal “service” is to already be a part of it — God forbid new blood shine a light on what those cockroaches are actually doing.

      • old guy

        I’m with you. I think ALL contributions to Congressmen and Senators should be made public, together with their voting record on affected legislation. Elimination, reduction or redirection of current spending:
        1. The DOE (Don’t Over Educate), 29% budget go to students,
        2. EPA (ExceptionalPotential for Attorneys) 65% to lawyers,
        3. Bureau of Land Mgmt, 80 % to lawyers and police force.
        4, Dept of agriculture, Twice as many employees as we have farmers
        Addressing these idiocies would be a good start.
        As a matter of fact eliminate or move all Departmental police forces (over 9,000 armed personnel into FBI, or Secret Service,

    • On Dre

      Only a die-hard Trump boot licker would read an article about how the Sec Nav dropped out of consideration and then somehow blame the Department of Education.
      What happened? Did a school teacher put a dunce cap on you at one time?

      • old guy

        personal insults and assaults don’t belong here.

  • TheTruth

    I find it difficult to believe that Biden cannot accept the position due to “…undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family’s private financial interests.” but Trump has been able to separate his personal and family fortune from any and all conflicts of interest? That was biggest shell game ever.

    • MLepay

      >>>but Trump has been able to separate his personal and family fortune from any and all conflicts of interest?
      Any and all? When has he done that? The shell game is what Trump is doing, at least this prospective sec had the ethical standard to admit he could not make it work.

      • TheTruth

        Slight typo. I was asking if Trump had been able to separate his business from the White House. I don’t think he has and I think he’s trying to make up for the billion dollar loss a few years back.

        • MLepay

          Gotcha! I agree.

      • FourWarVet

        Agree. I give Bilden credit for recognizing his conflicts of interest. You’ve got to respect that.

    • USNVO

      Well, for one, Trump was elected President while Bilden was nominated to be SECNAV. So the lawyers will work it out for Trump, perhaps not to yours or others satisfaction but I doubt that is a criteria, while Bilden would have to comply from the beginning.

  • The Plague

    Good, this beancounter is no great loss.

  • James Humberg

    It’s all for the best ……. C.H.

  • Do you think that the guy cheated on his taxes like Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner did?

  • Ctrot

    But you can become POTUS without producing a birth certificate, college transcripts or yes tax returns.

  • John B. Morgen

    Give the SECNAV position to a retired admiral.