McCain Warns Administration to Stop Nominating Industry Execs

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) questions Department of Defense nominees during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Nov. 2, 2017. Screenshot photo.

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee warned the Trump Administration on Thursday to not nominate any more top industry executives for positions in the Pentagon, even as he said he will fast track the latest batch of nominees.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said during a Thursday hearing on four nominees, including for former Raytheon Vice President Mark Esper to be the next Army Secretary, that he “couldn’t support further nominees with that background.”

“I would be remiss if I did not reiterate my concerns about the number of nominees from defense industry filling out the leadership ranks at the Department of Defense,” McCain said. “I want to be clear, that my reservations grew out of early consultations I had with the administration about potential nominees, including yours, and a handful of others that were yet to be nominated.”

Esper was testifying alongside Robert Wilkie to be the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, Joseph Kernan to be the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and Guy Roberts to be the assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs. Roberts is the president of GBR Consulting and had been a senior associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Kernan, a former Navy SEAL, served as a military assistant to the Secretary of Defense before retiring and was the senior vice president of corporate development for SAP National Security Services. Wilkie was a senior adviser to Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and was an assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs.

McCain said the nominees had been previously held up because of “failures of communication” between Capitol Hill and the Pentagon, but despite any misgivings about the background of the nominees, he intends to move the nominations through “as quickly as possible.”

Other nominees from defense industry include Defense Undersecretary Patrick Shanahan, who was a senior executive at Boeing; Defense Department acquisition head Ellen Lord, who was a former executive at Textron Systems; and undersecretary for policy nominee John Rood, who is a senior vice president of Lockheed Martin.