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politics and politicians
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Title: Trump fills the Pentagon swamp
Source: Washington Examiner
URL Source: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/ ... trump-fills-the-pentagon-swamp
Published: Jun 19, 2019
Author: Timothy P. Carney
Post Date: 2019-06-19 09:46:04 by Deckard
Keywords: None
Views: 60

When Donald Trump spoke of coming to Washington to “drain the swamp,” you might have thought the swamp he derided was the incestuous network of insiders who enrich themselves while passing through the revolving door between government and K Street. You might have thought the “draining” would involve slowing the revolving door and ceasing this cycle of self-enrichment.

But no. By “the swamp,” Trump clearly just meant “people I don’t like.” And the draining never happened.

This week, as a former executive from Boeing (the No. 2 contractor for the Defense Department last year) stepped down as Trump’s acting defense secretary, Trump replaced him with the former top lobbyist at Raytheon (the No. 3 defense contractor) which is seeking DOD approval to merge with United Technologies (the No. 11 defense contractor). Before you feel bad for Lockheed Martin, the league leader in bringing in contracting for the Pentagon, their former senior VP is the undersecretary of defense for policy.

The military-industrial complex is alive and well in Trump’s Washington, and arguably doing better than ever.

The recent DOD revolving door story is just one example, but it’s a telling one.

Pat Shanahan spent 30 years at Boeing, serving stints both on their commercial side and as vice president and general manager of both Boeing Missile Defense Systems and Boeing Rotorcraft Systems, according to his DOD biography.

When Trump tapped him in July 2017 to be deputy secretary of defense, Trump was still calling Shanahan “the Boeing guy.” On Jan. 1, 2019, Trump made Shanahan acting defense secretary, nominating him to be permanent defense secretary in May.

It’s pretty swampy to put the Boeing Guy at the head of the DOD when Boeing is typically the No. 2 recipient of Defense Department contract dollars, bringing in about $50 billion over the past two years. Boeing has, in the past, been caught up in contracting scandals — one former Air Force official went to prison for rigging a contract in Boeing’s favor just before landing a big job there.

But Shanahan this week dropped out of consideration for defense secretary, and is leaving the Pentagon. To replace him, Trump has named another military-industrial revolver, Mark Esper.

Esper is a West Point grad who spent 10 years in the military before heading to Capitol Hill as a Senate staffer. Then Esper cashed out to K Street. Esper joined a key industry lobby of the military-industrial complex, the Aerospace Industries Association of America. While there, he lobbied Congress, and perhaps DOD and the Bush White House on defense and other issues. After a stint as a lobbyist at the Chamber of Commerce, Esper in 2010 jumped to Raytheon where he ran the defense contractor’s lobbying shop and earned a spot in the Hill’s “Top Lobbyists” sections (“Esper — a former Pentagon official, Senate staffer and Army colonel — lobbies to influence major legislation such as the annual defense policy bill”) until Trump tapped him as secretary of the Army in 2017.

Esper’s arrival at DOD echoed an episode early in the previous administration when President Barack Obama instantly made a mockery of his “lobbying ban” by naming Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn as deputy defense secretary.

Raytheon is reliably the No. 3 or 4 defense contractor, bringing in more than $40 billion in the past two years. These days, Raytheon wants to merge with United Technologies, a multi-billion-dollar defense contractor. The Defense Department is conducting a review of this merger at the very time Raytheon’s former top lobbyist is taking over the department.

Trump has said he is “a little concerned” about the merger — decreasing competition for Defense contracts is bound to drive up prices, he frets. It’s good Trump is worried, but we know how he is inclined to get over his worries about industry giants after extended exposure to folks from that world.

As a candidate, for example, Trump opposed the Export-Import Bank, also known as "Boeing’s Bank." After bringing on Shanahan and hiring Ex-Im alumnus Anthony Scaramucci, Trump had a change of heart, and came around to supporting the agency.

If this pattern holds up, Trump could soon be persuaded that a Raytheon-UTC merger is good for the U.S.

This is how the swamp works. Not by bribery or quids-pro-quo (well, except for that Boeing-Air Force thing), but by access. The insiders get all the seats at the table, and they make decisions that enrich the other insiders. Now that Trump is convening that table, there are as many swamp creatures as ever.

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