Senator Warren Submits a Statement for the Record Opposing Mark Esper's Nomination for Secretary of Defense
"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."
Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) yesterday voted 'no' during an executive session to consider Mark Esper's nomination to be Secretary of Defense. She also submitted a statement for the record to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) reiterating her opposition to his nomination. Her statement, released here, reiterates concerns Senator Warren raised with Secretary Esper directly during his nomination hearing before the SASC on Tuesday, in a letter, and during a private meeting: that Secretary Esper is the fourth former Federal lobbyist expected to be confirmed to President Trump's cabinet, and that Secretary Esper has refused to make a series of commitments related to resolving conflicts of interest related to matters involving his former employer, defense contractor Raytheon. Senator Warren previously questioned Secretary Esper about his Raytheon-related conflicts of interest in November 2017 when he was nominated to serve as Secretary of the Army.
SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD
July 18, 2019
"If confirmed as Secretary of Defense, Secretary Mark Esper would become the fourth current Trump Administration cabinet-level official whose previous job before entering the Administration was as a Federal lobbyist. In Secretary Esper's case, he oversaw all lobbying activities at Raytheon for nearly seven years, ending in 2017. As the country's third largest defense contractor, Raytheon has significant financial interests across the Department of Defense-interests that Secretary Esper will be in a prime position to influence or affect.
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.
This isn't a partisan issue. In the past, Armed Services Committee leadership has shared my concerns about the revolving door between the Defense Department and giant defense contractors, including at Secretary Esper's first nomination hearing for Army Secretary in November 2017.
This isn't about demonizing private sector experience or expertise. 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.
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."
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