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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 BidenIntercept bureau chief: minimum wage was not 'high priority' for Biden in COVID-19 relief South Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Obama alum Seth Harris to serve as Biden labor adviser: report 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 PocanDemocrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' Senate Democrats likely to face key test of unity on 2022 budget Democrats blast Facebook over anti-vaccine pages MORE (D-Wis.) and Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeePro-Choice Caucus asks Biden to remove abortion fund restrictions from 2022 budget Progressives push White House to overturn wage ruling Lawmakers, Martin Luther King III discuss federal responses to systematic racism 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 EsperCORRECTED: Overnight Defense: COVID-19 stymies effort to study sexual assault at military academies | Biden, Saudi king speak ahead of Khashoggi report Female generals' promotions held back over fears of Trump's response: report Overnight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command MORE, who worked for Raytheon before joining the administration; former acting Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanOvernight 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 Lloyd Austin can lead — as a civilian MORE, who worked for Boeing; and former Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisRejoining the Iran nuclear deal would save lives of US troops, diplomats The soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs The GOP senators likely to vote for Trump's conviction 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 TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm 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.”