On Thursday, Warren, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, unveiled a proposal — yes, another one — with House Armed Services Chair Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) that aims to limit the influence corporations on the governments defense agenda.
The proposal would essentially establish four-year noncompetes between the Department of Defense and major defense contractors, extend federal open records laws to private defense contracting companies, and limit national security officials from working for foreign governments, according to a blog post Warren published Thursday morning.
Elizabeth Warren Targets Pentagon Corruption With New Policy Rollout
Warren is among several progressive 2020 candidates who have called to reevaluate the nations military and defense agenda. When Congress passed one of the biggest defense budgets in modern US history last year with overwhelming bipartisan support, authorizing $716 billion in spending in 2019, Warren was one of 10 senators — along with fellow 2020 candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) — who voted against it. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) voted in support.
It is time to identify which programs actually benefit American security in the 21st century, and which programs merely line the pockets of defense contractors — then pull out a sharp knife and make some cuts, Warren wrote on Medium about her latest plan. And while the defense industry will inevitably have a seat at the table, they shouldnt get to own the table itself.
But interestingly, Warren herself has been seen as a champion for defense contractors in her own state of Massachusetts, where giants like General Dynamics and Raytheon are major employers and hold billion-dollar defense contracts with the federal government. In 2015, Raytheon told Politico that it had a positive relationship with Warren and interacted with her staff regularly. She was also said to have been instrumental in fighting proposed cuts to a General Dynamic contract, which lobbyists in her state said ingratiated the senator with the defense industry. Local defense businesses had supported her Republican opponent, Scott Brown, in Warrens first race for the senate.
This latest proposal is clearly distant from that past record on defense; an attempt at bringing her call for anti-corruption legislation to the often unchecked world of defense.
With Norquist not heading back to his old job, that leaves the Pentagons Chief Management Officer position vacant at a time where Congress is marking up the 2020 defense budget, and much of the heavy lifting for the 2021 budget is in full swing. There are no pending nominees for other civilian positions, including both the undersecretary and principal deputy for personnel and readiness, assistant secretary for international security affairs, and inspector general.
Warren is laying out a very clear picture of how she sees the United States defense agenda: crafted by corporate lobbyists. Of course, the revolving door between the Pentagon and private defense companies is well-established. The watchdog group Project on Government Oversight found the top 20 defense contractors had hired at least 645 former senior government officials, military officers, lawmakers, and senior legislative staff in 2016; nearly 90 percent of those former federal employees work as lobbyists.
In my mind Eric is probably the smartest person over there, a former defense official told me. While he doesnt have a lot of government experience, those McKinsey guys can usually figure out a process pretty quickly. Being chief of staff means being master of the processes and keeping the trains running on time. I would expect he would do just fine as long as he gets along with Shanahan.
1) Establish a four-year ban on major defense contractors — like Boeing or Northrop Grumman — from hiring senior Defense officials, or officials that managed those corporations contracts after they leave office. The ban goes the other way as well, requiring Defense Department employees to recuse themselves from any matter that affects their former employee for four years.
2) Add checks on government officials going on to work for foreign governments. In almost a direct callout to Michael Flynn, President Trumps former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, this proposal would require the secretary of state to directly approve of any senior White House State, Defense, and Treasury officials who want to work for a foreign government or nongovernmental foreign entity. It also bans all former military and civilian intelligence officers from working for any foreign government.
The coziness between defense lobbyists, Congress and the Pentagon — what former President Dwight D. Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex ― tilts countless decisions, big and small, away from legitimate national security interests and toward the desires of giant corporations that thrive off taxpayer dollars, said Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
3) Increase transparency within the Pentagon. The proposal would make private defense contractors subject to federal open records law, which mandates that executive branch government agencies comply with information requests. It would also require major defense contractors to report what and to whom theyre lobbying, and to make all defense contracts worth more than $10 million public online.
The Pentagon is at the center of progressive talking points when it comes to addressing the federal budget. On the 2020 campaign trail, candidates like Warren and Sanders have been at the forefront of this charge, calling to end the military industrial complex and cut wasteful spending that line[s] the pockets of defense contractors.
If more money for the Pentagon could solve our security challenges, we would have solved them by now, Warren said in a speech on foreign policy at American University.
Elizabeth Warren unveils plan to stop corruption at the Pentagon
She added that cutting the defense budget would start by ending the stranglehold of defense contractors on our military policy. Its clear that the Pentagon is captured by the so-called Big Five defense contractors — and taxpayers are picking up the bill.
Elizabeth Warren using policy proposals to stand out Whether Elizabeth Warren is addressing the problems of income inequality, climate change or opioid addiction, shes usually targeting a common foe: the lobbyists. Thursday morning, the presidential candidate and Massachusetts Democratic senator is introducing a bill to limit their influence in national security interests, to “slam shut the revolving door between giant contractors and the Pentagon.”
It goes without saying that none of it will be easy. As Warren knows from her own state, defense contractors represent major economic sectors in many states around the country — which is in part why its been so hard to curb their influence. Warrens campaign has not responded to questions about how she would address a spending bill that massively boosted defense spending, like the one Congress passed last year. Sanders stopped short of saying he would refuse to sign such a bill as president, in an interview with Vox.
So far, Warrens proposal for the Pentagon is an extension of the centerpiece of her campaign: Shes making it part of her larger anti-corruption agenda.
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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who introduced sweeping anti-corruption legislation prior to her presidential run, has a new plan to target corporate influence at the Pentagon. Part of it has to do with cutting the budget of the Defense Department by limiting the influence of big contractors. It is time to identify which programs actually benefit American security in the 21st century, and which programs merely line the pockets of defense contractors — then pull out a sharp knife and make some cuts, she wrote in a Medium post announcing the plan. And while the defense industry will inevitably have a seat at the table, they shouldnt get to own the table itself. Warren seeks to address this problem by creating a four-year ban on major defense contractors from hiring senior DOD officials, banning DOD officials from owning contractor stock, limiting foreign government hiring of American national-security officials, and making private defense contractors subject to federal open-records laws. All three of my brothers went off to join the military because, like tens of thousands of uniformed and civilian employees and officers at the Defense Department, they wanted to serve their country, Warren writes. We should all be grateful for that kind of service and sacrifice. If we want to demonstrate that gratitude, we can start by making sure that national-security decisions are driven only by what best keeps Americans safe.