Op-Ed: US Defense Secretary Esper was a lobbyist for arms maker Raytheon

Posted Jan 14, 2020 by Ken Hanly
After the assassination- aka euphemistically as "targeted killing"- of Iranian top general Qassem Soleimani in a US operation in Baghdad on January 3 Raytheon a large US defense contractor saw its stock shoot up and close at a record high.
US Army Secretary Mark Esper told AFP that when he visited Poland in January  it appeared there was ...
US Army Secretary Mark Esper told AFP that when he visited Poland in January, it appeared there was not enough space on offer to fulfill the training requirements for US soldiers
US Defense Secretary Esper was for years a top lobbyist for Raytheon
Wikipedia describes
Raytheon briefly: "The Raytheon Company is a major U.S. defense contractor and industrial corporation with core manufacturing concentrations in weapons and military and commercial electronics. It was previously involved in corporate and special-mission aircraft until early 2007. Raytheon is the world's largest producer of guided missiles.[4] On June 9, 2019, Raytheon announced a merger of equals with the aerospace companies of United Technologies.[5]Established in 1922, the company reincorporated in 1928 and adopted its present name in 1959. As of 2018, the company had around 67,000 employees worldwide and annual revenues of approximately US$25.35 billion.[6] More than 90% of Raytheon's revenues were obtained from military contracts and, as of 2012, it was the fifth-largest military contractor in the world.[7] As of 2015, it is the third largest defense contractor in the United States by defense revenue.[8]"
When Mark Esper was leaving his job at Raytheon to join the Trump administration he claimed that his salary and bonuses added up to $1,524,018 that year. Esper said his job was to be: “Responsible for company interactions with members of Congress and their staff at the Federal level and with all state and local elected officials and their staff.”
Now Esper does not lobby for more defense spending he is the principle defense policymaker and adviser. He is a powerful actor and is able to sign off on huge government contracts including ones that profit his former employer although he may not necessarily do so. However, one can expect that he will try to obtain the most money he can for the arms industry from which he came.
Trump administration has hired many former lobbyists
Esper has plenty of company in that according to a Pro-Publica analysis has so far hired 281 lobbyists, often to work in areas in which they had formerly been lobbyists. You would think that Esper faces a conflict of interest when he makes decisions that involve Raytheon. Even though he no longer works for them there sure could be a perception that he might favor them in decisions. However, Esper has decided that he will not recuse himself from matters involving Raytheon during the time he works for the US government. The Trump government seems not to care about avoiding the perception of bias.
Dwight Eisenhower's Military-Industrial Complex speech
In a farewell address
in 1961 then President Dwight Eisenhower, himself a former five stare general and also Supreme Commander of allied forces in Europe during the second World War warned about the dangers of what he called the military-industrial complex: "We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
The appointment of Mark Esper as the US Defense Secretary is a perfect example of the government doing exactly what Eisenhower had warned Americans about. Esper's appointment gives the military industrial complex the power to have unwarranted influence over decisions of the government.
The revolving door
Lobbyists of all sorts not just from the military-industrial complex but from other important industries such as drug manufacturing move freely from industry into government. But then when they leave government, after they have formed many bonds and contacts with government officials, these former lobbyists often return to their former jobs. They then offer corporations that hire them valuable expertise in how to have influence within the complicated structures of government.
Rick Perry had been on the board of a company that control Energy Transfer LP, a pipeline company he had worked for up until 2016 after which he became Energy Secretary. However, just one month after leaving his government position he was back on the board of the company. He now has government experience promoting oil and gas deregulation and a large list of useful contacts.
Esper's predecessor Jim Mattis rejoined the board of General Dynamics just a few months after his resignation as Secretary of Defense. Esper has said that he would not rule out rejoining Raytheon.
The fox guarding the hen house
The Trump administration sometimes appoints former lobbyists to oversee agencies that were once targets for their lobbying. Some critics see this as the fox guarding the hen house. Esper being in charge of US national defense is surely a prime example in which the military-industrial complex will have an unwarranted influence on potential military actions. This influence could often be against the overall interests of the US.
The US military budget for 2019
was over $693 billion much more than any other country in the world. There is a huge opportunity cost to this expenditure as the US has many unmet needs in spending on infrastructure, education, health, the environment and many other areas. The appended video talks about the effect of military spending on the environment and other costs. Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex was prescient but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears.