The new appointee worked for seven years as vice president of government relations at defense contractor Raytheon until transitioning back to the Pentagon in 2017.
The revolving door in Washington, which moves people between government jobs, industry posts, and lobbying groups, continues its merry-go-round. On Tuesday United States (U.S.) President Donald Trump confirmed that acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan was out, and Army Secretary Mark Esper will take the job.
Trump’s new choice, mark’s the third pick to run the Pentagon, since he took office. Yet Esper seems to be the combination of both his predecessors Jim Mattis and Shanahan. The Army infantryman has experience in battle and politics, which Shanahan lacked, and a new private sector-minded approach to warfare, which an old general like Mattis didn’t have.
The 55-year-old has been working in the Pentagon since 2017 when Trump named him Army Secretary. Yet in brash contrast with former acting Secretary Shanahan, Esper has a long career in the armed forces.
The 1986 West Point Academy graduate was classmate with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and after finishing his time at the Military Academy was commissioned into the Infantry and served in the Army with the 101st Airborne Division during Operation Desert Shield in the Gulf War.
He later retired from the military in 2007 and transitioned to the District of Columbia Army National Guard and later the Army Reserve, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. During this time, he was chief of staff form 1996 to 1998 at the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing conservative think tank.
After serving under George W. Bush as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy, Director for National Security Affairs for the U.S. Senate, and Vice president for Europe and Eurasia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2008-2010). Esper’s private sector career blossomed into a seven-year position as vice president of government relations at defense contractor Raytheon until transitioning back to the Pentagon.
“I’m not thrilled that the next acting defense secretary is a former Raytheon executive,” said Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight, a non-governmental watchdog group. As this where the revolving door in Washington comes into play, just as it did with Shanahan.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who has done a wonderful job, has decided not to go forward with his confirmation process so that he can devote more time to his family....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2019
Raytheon is the third largest Denfese contractor to the U.S., right behind Lockheed Martin and Boeing. In 2018, the world's largest producer of guided missiles was awarded around US$19 billion in defense contracts, and it seems that Esper will use his position to further the cozy relationship between this company and the U.S. military.
As Army Secretary, Esper called upon the armed forces to integrate more missiles into it’s “multi-domain” type warfare. “The Army, for example, could launch anti-ship missiles from shore to help the Navy, blitzkrieg anti-aircraft batteries to help the Air Force, or disrupt enemy networks with jamming and cyber attacks,” he said back in May 2018.
These remarks are significant, as Esper shares Shanahan’s idea of renovating the U.S. Army, targeting China and Russia as their main opponents.
"We need to modernize together," he told the Atlantic Council in May, adding that ”the Pacific is a vast area covered by a lot of water...We talk about fighting in the first island chain or the second, but who knows where the first scrap if it happens, and let's hope it doesn't, with the Chinese ends up. But when we think about it we think about some of the Army's modernization priorities. So you think about number one for us: long-range precision fires.”
At the same time, the newly appointed head of the Pentagon will apply private sector agility to the Army, in what he has referred to as horizontal "matrixed organizations" open to rapid changes and joint operations between all branches, combing budgets and “investments.”
This will amount to the application of a new type of warfare with “identified technologies that are common and important to us all: hypersonics, directed energy, artificial intelligence, robotics.”
New Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper will risk being tainted by his previous work for a major defense contractor, Raytheon. Esper's ethics agreement, and his ability to follow it, will be something we will be watching closely. https://t.co/GuFq2iB0bj— Noah Bookbinder (@NoahBookbinder) June 18, 2019
As luck would have it, Esper’s main strategy is related to his former employer, Raytheon, which specializes in missile, communication and space technology. Furthermore, on June 9, the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2020 the defense contractor will merge with United Technologies aerospace division to form a new company called Raytheon Technologies Corporation.
Thus the deal with United Technologies (10th largest defense contractor in 2018), which produces airplane components, could make Raytheon Tech an even largest seller to the Pentagon in a proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Budget request of US$750 billion for national security, US$718.3 billion of which is for the Department of Defense (DoD).
With these considerations, at least there is no doubt now that Esper did earn his 2015 and 2016 mention in The Hill as top corporate lobbyist.