President Trump's nominee for secretary of the Navy withdrew from consideration because of extensive financial ties that would not meet the Defense Department's rigorous ethics standards, the Pentagon confirmed Sunday evening.
Philip Bilden, who spent most of his professional career as a Hong Kong-based financier, withdrew from consideration because his ties in Asia "would likely not meet the Office of Government Ethics standards to serve in the position," according to a report from USNI News, which broke the news.
In a statement, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressed his disappointment and said he'd make a recommendation in the coming days for a Navy secretary.
"This was a personal decision driven by privacy concerns and significant challenges he faced in separating himself from his business interests," Mattis said, in reference to Bilden's withdrawal. "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."
Rumors broke last weekend that Bilden was set to withdraw but were quickly stamped out by the White House.
A request for comment from the White House was not immediately returned.
Bilden is the second service secretary nominee to withdraw because of complicated financial and business holdings. On Feb. 4, news broke that businessman Vincent Viola withdrew from consideration for Secretary of the Army, citing difficulty disentangling business holdings.
Bilden served in the Army Reserve from 1986 through 1996. He has been active in supporting both the Naval Academy and the Naval War College, and has a child at the Naval Academy.
Bilden's withdrawal will likely renew speculation that former House Armed Services Committee member Randy Forbes could get the job. Forbes led the committee's Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee and is intimately familiar with the issues confronting the Navy and Marine Corps. Forbes also served as an adviser to the Trump campaign.
Sean Stackley, who was for years the Navy's top acquisition boss, is currently the acting secretary of the Navy.
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.