By Debbie Gregory.
President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of the Navy withdrew from consideration on Sunday, the second time a Trump nominee to lead one of the armed services bowed out because of government conflict-of-interest rules.
The nominee, Philip Bilden, a former military intelligence officer in the Army Reserve who ran the Hong Kong branch of a private equity firm, said in a statement that he had informed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that he did not want to continue to seek confirmation a month after he had been named for the post.
“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,” said Bilden. “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.”
Vincent Viola, a billionaire Wall Street trader and Mr. Trump’s choice for secretary of the Army, withdrew because he decided it was too difficult to detach himself from his business interests.
Bilden, the son of a naval officer, attended Georgetown University on an R.O.T.C. scholarship and served from 1986 to 1996 in the Army Reserve as an intelligence officer. He was a board member of the Naval Academy Foundation and the Naval War College Foundation and has two sons who attended the Naval Academy. He was reported to be Mr. Mattis’s choice for the position.
He made his fortune in a 25-year career at HarbourVest Partners, first in Boston and then in Hong Kong.
The development leaves Trump and Mattis without nominees to head both the Navy and Army.
“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,” Mattis said.