Trump Should Withdraw His Secretary Of The Airforce Nomination

Wes Martin Retired Colonel, U.S. Army
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Heather Wilson needs to either withdraw, or be withdrawn, from consideration as the next Secretary of the Air Force.  Her own history proves she is an ethical wreck.

The most blatant example was her $10,000-a-month contract with Sandia Corporation.  From 1993 to 2016, Lockheed Martin managed the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Sandia National Laboratories and its $2.4 billion budget through its wholly owned subsidiarity – Sandia Corporation.  From 1998 to 2009 Heather was New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District Representative, in which Sandia Laboratories is located.

Negotiated while she was still a Member of Congress, the contract commenced the day after she left office.  Over the course of the next twenty months, she received $200,000.  Her vaguely stated mission was focused on influencing Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to continue awarding extensions to Lockheed’s oversight contract, bypassing the federal re-bid process.

The established standard is for this oversight contract to be re-bid every five years.  Despite all the scandals, federal investigations, and congressional inquiries on Sandia National Laboratories, the worst while Heather was in office, Lockheed was “somehow” able to avoid the rebidding process for twenty-three years.

Heather Wilson providing top-cover for senior Sandia management was no secret. Employees who realized the need to report corporate fraud, waste, and abuse against the American government knew better than taking their concerns to Heather even though she was their congressional representative.  Whistle-blowers such as myself engaged Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Congressman (later Senator) Ed Markey of Massachusetts.  Even subsequent whistle-blower protection was left to Grassley and Markey.

Concerning the lucrative Sandia Corporation contract, Heather never reported this on her 2008 “House Termination Report,” despite the clearly written mandate that “any agreement or arrangement with respect to future employment” be declared.  Heather later claimed she did not need to report the venture because the money went to her business (Heather Wilson and Co. LLC) – conveniently established twenty-four days prior to leaving Congress.

As later determined by the DOE Inspector General, Heather’s entire $200,000 payroll was financed through taxpayer money. Neither Heather nor Sandia Corporation could produce documentation proving any legal deliverables. Having spent several years in very close contact with Sandia senior management and having been Sandia Corporation’s “go-to” person on Capitol Hill, it was impossible for Heather not to understand the source of funding.

The DOE IG concluded in its 2014 report, “the use of Federal funds to advance that interest through actions designed to encourage a noncompetitive contract extension was, in our view, prohibited by Sandia Corporation’s contract and Federal law and regulations.”  Through Department of Justice intervention, Sandia Corporation was required to pay the U.S. Government a $4,790,000 fine and reimburse the $200,000 it paid to Heather Wilson.

While the Sandia contract was the most blatant, Heather also had contracts with three other federally funded national laboratories bringing her related income to $450,000.  Amazingly, while under investigation for her activities with Sandia Corporation, Heather was appointed to a House of Representatives advisory panel.  Her mission was to recommend how to improve the effectiveness of U.S. government’s national laboratories.

Predictably, Heather’s report back to Congress called for less government oversight.  Surely if Bernie Madoff, during the height of the investigation into his dealings, was asked how to better protect investors; he too would have called for less government oversight and enforcement.

Whether it was accepting federal tax dollars for never-explained civilian contractor work, knowingly nominating an illegal alien to the Air Force Academy, interfering with U.S. Attorney David Iglegias, or other issues she has been involved in; Heather Wilson is a never-ending story.  In 2007 Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics recognized Heather as one of the “most corrupt members of Congress.”

It is beyond logic for President Trump to believe Heather Wilson possesses the judgment and integrity to lead the Department of the Air Force further into the 21st Century.  The Secretary of the Air Force should exemplify the highest level of ethics, not be a living testimonial of personal interest over national security.

Colonel (Retired) Wes Martin is the former Senior Antiterrorism Officer for all Coalition Forces in Iraq and former Chief of Protective Force Operations, Sandia National Laboratories.