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Defense chief nominee grilled in US Senate for corporate ties

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-07-17 15:38
Defense Secretary nominee Mark Esper testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination in Washington, US July 16, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - Mark Esper, the nominee for secretary of defense, faced scrutiny in his confirmation hearing Tuesday for past ties to defense contractor Raytheon.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a presidential nominee, questioned Esper's commitment to put the interest of the country before his own.

"You can't make those commitments to this committee, that means you should not be confirmed as secretary of defense," Warren said.

In his defense, Esper stressed that he "lived an ethical life". "I'm going to continue to live by those ethics, those principles, whether it involves Raytheon or any other company for that matter," he said.

At the heart of the concerns for Esper's nomination was his role as vice president for government relations for Raytheon from 2010 to 2017, during which he was considered one of the most successful lobbyists in Washington.

Though Esper left Raytheon for the Pentagon in 2017, he is set to receive more than one million dollars from the company in deferred payments after 2022.

When pressed by Warren on the issue, Esper said he would not commit to forgo employment or payment from a defense firm for at least four years after his government job.

"I think the presumption is, for some reason, anybody who comes from the business or the corporate world is corrupt," Esper replied.

Warren also urged Esper to extend an agreement to recuse himself from any matter involving Raytheon, which is set to expire this November, but Esper said Pentagon ethics advisers had recommended him not to do so.

Esper, 55, was a graduate of West Point and served combat roles in the Gulf War. His career spanned across the government, think tanks and the private sector.

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