House Democrats Warn Biden Against Hiring SecDef With Arms Industry Ties

Biden's top pick sits on the board of a defense firm and has a long history of pushing for US intervention around the world

Two progressive House Democrats penned a letter to Joe Biden, urging him not to appoint someone to the position of secretary of defense who has previously worked in the weapons industry. The letter was released Thursday by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI).

“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,” the letter reads. The lawmakers used President Trump’s previous Pentagon chiefs as examples of the revolving door between the arms industry and Pentagon leaders.

Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who was fired this week, worked for Raytheon before joining the Trump administration. Patrick Shanahan, former acting secretary, worked for Boeing for over 30 years before joining the Pentagon as deputy secretary of defense in 2017. Trump’s first Pentagon chief, James Mattis, served on the board of General Dynamics.

“Additionally, nearly half of all senior Defense Department officials are connected to military contractors,” the lawmakers wrote. “Despite President Trump’s boast that he would ‘drain the swamp’ and hire ‘only the best people,’ he has continually failed to do so.”

Michele Flournoy is said to be the frontrunner for the position of secretary of defense in the Biden administration. Flournoy has deep ties with the arms industry and currently serves on the board of the defense firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

Flournoy worked in the Pentagon under the Clinton administration and the Obama administration. In 2007, Flournoy co-founded the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a hawkish think tank that receives hefty contributions from weapons makers, major corporations, and the US government.

In 2016, Flournoy co-authored a CNAS report titled “Expanding American Power” with a group of hawks, including neoconservative Robert Kagan. The paper called for arms shipments to Ukraine, threats to Iran, increased military spending, and escalations in Syria and Iraq.

According to The New York Times, Jeh Johnson is also in the running to be Biden’s Pentagon chief. Johnson served as the secretary of homeland security from 2013 to 2017 and currently sits on the board of Lockheed Martin.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.