WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a four-point plan on Thursday to combat what she described as “an intense coziness between giant defense corporations and our Department of Defense.” Warren, who is running for president, announced the proposal in a blog post, saying it would help shut the “revolving door” between the federal government and military contractors while trimming our “bloated defense budget.”
“Defense contractor influence is a big part of how we ended up with a Pentagon budget that will cost more this year than Ronald Reagan spent at the height of the Cold War,” Warren wrote. “That’s more than the federal government spends on education, medical research, border security, housing, the FBI, disaster relief, the State Department, foreign aid — everything else in the discretionary budget put together.”
Warren described the influence of defense contractors as “wrong,” “wasteful,” and “bad for our national security.”
“If more money for the Pentagon could solve our security challenges, we would have solved them by now. It is time to identify which programs actually benefit American security in the 21st century, and which programs merely line the pockets of defense contractors — then pull out a sharp knife and make some cuts. And while the defense industry will inevitably have a seat at the table, they shouldn’t get to own the table itself,” Warren said.
Warren’s plan would “ban giant defense contractors from hiring senior DOD officials and general and flag officers for four years after they leave the department.” In her blog post, Warren pointed out that “the top 20 defense contractors hired 645 former senior government officials, top military brass, members of Congress, and senior legislative staff as lobbyists, board members, or senior executives” last year. She described this as “corruption, plain and simple.”
“The latest example came last week, when President Trump nominated Patrick Shanahan, a former top Boeing executive, to be Secretary of Defense,” Warren wrote.
Under Warren’s proposal, senior Defense Department officials would be barred from “owning or trading any stock of giant defense contractors.” It would also make it illegal for national security officials to work for foreign governments after their tenure and require defense contractors to “disclose the true scope of their lobbying activities — including who they’re meeting with at the DOD, what they’re lobbying about, and what (unclassified) information they’re sharing.”
Warren has made policies designed to combat structural inequities a centerpiece of her campaign. She has released over 20 detailed proposals, including an Ultra-Millionaire Tax, which would apply to the top .1 percent of Americans, a sweeping anticorruption initiative and plans to break up large technology companies.
In her blog post, Warren stressed that she believes there are “talented and patriotic Americans who work in the defense industry,” and wrote that “public and private collaboration has helped produce real advances in new technology.” However, she argued that the “coziness between defense lobbyists, Congress, and the Pentagon … tilts countless decisions, big and small, away from legitimate national security interests, and toward the desires of giant corporations that thrive off taxpayer dollars.”
Warren framed her criticism as focused on the defense industry, rather than the military.
“All three of my brothers went off to join the military because, like tens of thousands of uniformed and civilian employees and officers at the Defense Department, they wanted to serve their country. We should all be grateful for that kind of service and sacrifice,” Warren wrote. “If we want to demonstrate that gratitude, we can start by making sure that national security decisions are driven only by what best keeps Americans safe.”
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