Responding to Security Jitters, Sprint Taps Adm. Mullen as Security Director

Hoping to ease security concerns about its $20.1 billion takeover, Sprint (NYSE:S) said Friday retired Admiral Mike Mullen will join the wireless provider’s board and serve as its first security director.

The appointment comes after Sprint and Japan’s SoftBank relented to pressure from the U.S. by agreeing to key national-security concessions, including giving the government approval of the newly-created security director position.

"Admiral Mullen is an admired leader with an impeccable record," Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said in a statement. "We are fortunate that a person with his experience, accomplishments and reputation will be a member of our new board."

Sprint said the appointment will become official upon the closing of the SoftBank deal, which is being challenged by a competing offer from Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) that is valued at $25.5 billion.

As security director, Mullen, 66, will be charged with overseeing Sprint’s compliance with the national-security agreement with the U.S. and serve as the government’s liaison for all security-related matters.

The concerns stem from worries about wireless providers purchasing equipment from Chinese suppliers like Huawei and ZTE, which the U.S. believes poses a national-security risk. Not only is Sprint the No. 3 U.S. wireless provider, but some government agencies use its networks for sensitive work.

The national-security agreement gives the U.S. the ability to require Sprint to remove and decommission by the end of 2016 "certain equipment" deployed in the network of Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR), an affiliate Sprint is attempting to acquire.

Mullen retired in September 2011 after a decorated military career that was capped off by being named the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October 2007. Mullen is also only the third naval officer in the history of the Navy to be appointed to four different four-star assignments.

This won’t be Mullen’s first endeavor in corporate America as he is also currently a director at Big Three auto maker General Motors (NYSE:GM).

Shares of Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint were unmoved by the news, recently trading flat at $7.34.