July 15, 2019

Senator Warren Sends Letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper - Former Top Lobbyist for Raytheon - Raising New and Ongoing Ethics Concerns Ahead of Hearing to be Secretary of Defense

In a meeting with Sen. Warren, Acting Secretary Esper refused to commit to steps needed to address ethics questions; Warren’s Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act would prevent conflicts of interest between giant defense contractors and the federal government.

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper regarding his nomination to be Secretary of Defense and potential conflicts of interest he faces due to his previous role as Vice President of Government Relations for Raytheon from 2010 to 2017-the top lobbyist for the nation's third largest defense contractor. If confirmed, Acting Secretary Esper's previous work for the company would raise significant questions about DoD contracting decisions involving Raytheon. Consistent with provisions in Senator Warren's Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act, the senator requested that Acting Secretary Esper extend his soon-to-expire recusal commitment through the duration of his tenure at the DoD, expand his recusal to all decisions involving Raytheon or any of its direct competitors for his entire service at DoD, commit to not seek a waiver from his recusal from matters involving Raytheon, clarify and amend a new screening arrangement memo that reveals unacceptable latitude in Acting Secretary Esper's recusal requirements, and take further steps to eliminate possible real or perceived conflicts of interest.

"I am concerned by the cozy relationship between giant defense contractors, the DoD, and the White House, which is precisely why I introduced the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, which would ban you from working at DoD for six years after lobbying for Raytheon, and the DoD Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act," Senator Warren wrote. "In your 2017 ethics agreement, you committed to recuse from any decisions regarding Raytheon for two years, as required by President Trump'sExecutive Order regarding Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees. While I appreciated this commitment, your agreement's covered period is set to expire in November 2019 - only four months away."

Senator Warren and Acting Secretary Esper met this week, in advance of his nomination hearing to be Defense Secretary, and discussed her concerns. "When we met to discuss your nomination ... I asked that, like former Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan, you extend your recusal commitment through the duration of your tenure at the DoD... and take additional steps to eliminate any real or perceived conflicts of interest. You indicated you would not do so. I am troubled by your unwillingness to fully address your real and perceived conflicts of interest, and write to ask that you reconsider your refusal to extend your Raytheon recusal through the duration of your tenure at DoD," wrote Senator Warren.

The senator also expressed concern about a recently released "Ethics Obligation and Screening Arrangement" memo that Acting Secretary Esper prepared last month to clarify his 2017 ethics agreement. This memo details exemptions from Acting Secretary Esper's recusal commitments by permitting him to participate in certain matters that directly affect Raytheon's financial interests and to be present in meetings and receive information regarding Raytheon.

"Your screening arrangement memo, if unchanged, would appear to allow you to participate in decisions that affect Raytheon's financial standing and should disqualify you from serving as Secretary of Defense, even in an acting capacity," concluded the senator in her letter. "If confirmed, you must continue not to be involved with any matters that would affect Raytheon's or your own financial interests."

Senator Warren asked for a response from Acting Secretary Esper by July 19, 2019.

Senator Warren introduced the Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act to limit the influence of giant defense contractors on the Pentagon and assert greater transparency over contractors and their interaction with the DoD. The bill is consistent with Senator Warren's vision for a 21st century defense policy that includes "ending the stranglehold of defense contractors" that occurs when "the Pentagon is captured by the so-called 'Big Five' defense contractors-and taxpayers are picking up the bill," and with her sweeping Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, the most ambitious anti-corruption legislation since Watergate, which would ban former corporate lobbyists from joining the federal government for six years after lobbying.