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Pentagon refutes reports Trump's Navy secretary pick is about to withdraw

The Pentagon on Sunday joined the White House in disputing reports that President Trump's choice to lead the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps is planning to drop out.

If businessman Philip Bilden was preparing to withdraw from consideration, as CBS News reported Saturday, it appears Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was influential in making him reconsider. Bilden, a former military intelligence officer, remains "fully committed" to serving as Trump's Navy secretary, pending Senate confirmation, the Pentagon's chief spokesman said. 

Mattis, who is traveling overseas, spoke with Bilden early Sunday, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.

"Secretary Mattis remains fully committed to helping him ... [and] confident that Mr. Bilden is the right leader to rebuild the readiness of our Navy and Marine Corps," Davis added.

Attempts to contact Bilden were not immediately successful.

Bilden spent 10 years in the Army Reserve, from 1986 to 1996, before launching a successful venture capital firm in Hong Kong. He's also a board member for separate foundations associated with the U.S. Naval War College and the U.S. Naval Academy, where his sons have attended school.

On Saturday, citing unidentified sources, CBS News reported that Bilden was likely to walk way from his nomination to become Navy secretary because he's having trouble disentangling from his many financial interests. CBS noted, too, that Bilden has faced opposition from some lawmakers and Trump administration critics who believe he lacks sufficient knowledge about the sea services.

The White House refuted the Bilden report almost immediately. In announcing his nominationlast month, the administration praised Bilden's background, calling him a "cybersecurity leader" who would offer the Navy department "strategic leadership, investment discipline, and Asia Pacific regional and cyber expertise."

Trump's choice to serve as Army secretary, businessman Vincent Viola, withdrew from considerationearlier this month, citing financial reasons. Viola owns the NHL's Florida Panthers.

Andrew deGrandpre is Military Times' senior editor and Pentagon bureau chief. On Twitter:


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