Another Trump nominee for a critical government role has decided to withdraw. After two prior Trump nominees, Army Secretary choice Vincent Viola and Labor nominee Andy Puzder, both removed themselves from consideration for their appointed role in recent weeks citing insurmountable opposition or conflicts, moments ago financier Philip Bilden, a senior advisor at HarbourVest Asia and President Trump’s pick to lead the Navy, was said to become the third Trump appointee to withdraw his nomination.
“Philip Bilden has informed me that he has come to the difficult decision to withdraw from consideration to be secretary of the Navy,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement Sunday evening. He added that “this was a personal decision driven by privacy concerns and significant challenges he faced in separating himself from his business interests.”
Bilden’s vast financial holdings, many of which he earned in Hong Kong, would have made it difficult for him to survive the scrutiny of the Office of Government Ethics, USNI News reported.
Bilden, who built his career in Hong Kong with the investment firm HarbourVest, was a surprise pick for the Navy post but had been Mattis’ preferred candidate. Yet like billionaire investment banker Vincent Viola, who withdrew his nomination to be secretary of the Army earlier this month, Bilden ran into too many challenges during a review by the Office of Government Ethics to avoid potential conflicts of interest, the sources said.
Bilden’s withdrawal leaves Mattis with just Air Force Secretary nominee Heather Wilson, a former New Mexico Republican congresswoman, in line for a top political post. Her Senate confirmation has not yet been scheduled.
Bilden served as an intelligence officer in the Army Reserve from 1986 to 1996 and is on the board of directors of the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation and the board of trustees of the Naval War College Foundation.
Some background. According to USNI, Financier Philip Bilden has withdrawn himself from consideration to be the next Secretary of the Navy.
Sources in the White House and the Navy told USNI News that Bilden’s extensive financial holdings would likely not meet the Office of Government Ethics standards to serve in the position. In order to serve he would have to divest much of his foreign holdings, USNI News understands.
The White House is scheduled to make the announcement this evening. 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.”
In a statement, Defense Sec Mattis added that he’ll make a recommendation in the coming days to Trump for a leader who can guide Navy and Marine Corps.