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Progressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties

Progressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties
© Aaron Schwartz

A pair of progressive House Democrats is urging President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE not to nominate a Pentagon chief who has previously worked for a defense contractor.

“Respectfully, and in full agreement with your past statements, we write to request that the next secretary of Defense have no prior employment history with a defense contractor,” Reps. Mark PocanMark William PocanThe Memo: The pre-Trump 'normal' is gone for good Overnight Defense: Pentagon pitches 5B budget | Kamala Harris addresses US Naval Academy graduates Pentagon pitches 5B budget with cuts to older weapons MORE (D-Wis.) and Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeOvernight Defense: House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq war powers | Pentagon leaders press senators to reimburse National Guard | New pressure on US-Iran nuclear talks House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq war powers Overnight Defense: Biden, Putin agree to launch arms control talks at summit | 2002 war authorization repeal will get Senate vote | GOP rep warns Biden 'blood with be on his hands' without Afghan interpreter evacuation MORE (D-Calif.) wrote in a letter to Biden released Thursday.

Pocan is the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Lee is the caucus’s chairwoman emeritus.

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As House members, Pocan and Lee will not get a vote on Biden’s eventual nominee. But the letter signals the progressive position on the woman widely seen as Biden’s likely choice, Michèle Flournoy.

Flournoy, who was under secretary of Defense for policy in the Obama administration, co-founded consultant group WestExec Advisors, which counts defense contractors among its clients. She is also on the board of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.

Pocan and Lee’s letter does not mention Flournoy. Rather, they “strongly” urge Biden to “reject the mistaken nominations of the Trump era.”

Pocan and Lee cited the defense contractor ties of former Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military | Military guns go missing | New White House strategy to battle domestic extremism Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military: 'We are not weak' Cotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military MORE, who worked for Raytheon before joining the administration; former acting Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanSenators introducing bill to penalize Pentagon for failed audits Overnight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops' role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee Biden Pentagon pick could make up to .7M from leaving Raytheon MORE, who worked for Boeing; and former Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisBiden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet Rejoining the Iran nuclear deal would save lives of US troops, diplomats The soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs MORE, who served on the board at General Dynamics.

“Additionally, nearly half of all senior Defense Department officials are connected to military contractors,” they wrote. “Despite President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE's boast that he would ‘drain the swamp’ and hire ‘only the best people,’ he has continually failed to do so.”

Pocan and Lee also highlighted former President Eisenhower’s famed warning against the “unwarranted influence” of the military-industrial complex, writing that “it is unsurprising that the largest defense budgets in our nation’s history have come at a time during which senior defense personnel are intimately connected — through past, and future, employment — to the corporations profiting most from those very same budgets.”

“The transition from President Trump’s administration to yours promises to be the end of what you have called ‘the dark era,’ ” they added. “The legacy of Trump’s presidency will undoubtedly linger, but one way we can quickly distance the nation from the stain of his tenure is to immediately remove the profiteering ethos Donald Trump fostered throughout government.”