After recently voting ‘no’ during an executive session to consider Mark Esper’s nomination to be Secretary of Defense, Sen. Elizabeth Warren issued a statement opposing his nomination due to a potential conflict of interest with the major defense contractor, Raytheon. As an ex-vice president at Raytheon from 2010 to 2017, Esper directly refused last week to recuse himself from any financial decisions involving his former employer.
As the Senate prepares to confirm Esper as Defense Secretary, Warren issued a statement Thursday noting that if confirmed, Esper would become the fourth current Trump Administration cabinet-level official whose previous job before entering the Administration was as a Federal lobbyist. According to the Department of Defense, Esper was the Vice President for Government Relations at the Raytheon Company from 2010 to 2017.
In her statement, Warren wrote, “At his nomination hearing, I asked Secretary Esper to make three simple commitments:
“First, I asked him to make a commitment to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest by extending his recusal from participating in decisions involving Raytheon through the duration of his government service. This is the same commitment that his predecessor, former Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan, made with regard to his former employer, Boeing. Secretary Esper refused.
“Second, I asked if he would make a commitment not to seek a waiver allowing him to participate in decisions that would affect Raytheon’s financial interests and Raytheon’s ability or willingness to pay him more than $1 million in deferred compensation. He refused.
“Finally, I asked if he would make a commitment not to swing back through the revolving door to immediately return to work for Raytheon or any other large defense contractor after leaving government service. He refused.”
Even the appearance of a potential conflict of interest debases any modicum of integrity within the government. In a decisive moment to stand up and fight against revolving door politicians, gluttonous defense contractors, and the appearance of corruption, Esper refused.
“This isn’t about demonizing private sector experience or expertise,” Warren added. “Secretary Esper was Raytheon’s top lobbyist. Secretary Esper’s job was to represent Raytheon’s interests in Washington and to make the company more money through public policy and government contracts.
“I do not question Secretary Esper’s sincerity in his stated desire to serve our country with honor. That is why I gave Secretary Esper multiple opportunities to demonstrate to the American people his commitment to serve the country’s national security interest and earn my support by making three simple commitments-one of which his predecessor made voluntarily.”
Warren concluded, “My fundamental concern is that the relationship between the Defense Department and giant defense contractors has become far too cozy. Secretary Esper’s nomination exemplifies that concern. Secretary Esper has real conflicts of interest with Raytheon that he is unwilling to remedy by taking simple, reasonable steps. Until he is willing to make these commitments, he should not be confirmed as the Secretary of Defense, and I oppose his nomination.”