As a result, the candidates for defense secretary are facing increased scrutiny over whether they have the political chops to cut defense spending, as some in Congress want, while still funding innovative future technology and prioritizing the challenges posed by Russia and China — all while maintaining military deterrence against Iran, North Korea, and ISIS.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat and decorated combat veteran, is no longer getting a serious look, people familiar with the matter said, given Biden’s reluctance to create any vacancies in the Senate.
Some progressive groups have mobilized in recent days to oppose Flournoy’s nomination, though the delay may also be due to the complicated puzzle Biden is assembling as he tries to fulfill his promise of building a Cabinet that reflects the diversity of America — a potential factor in the President-elect’s delay in naming a CIA director as well.
Critics have raised concerns about Flournoy’s potential conflicts of interest, questioning how her support for former President Barack Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan and the continued sale of arms to Saudi Arabia aligns with the business interests of Booz Allen Hamilton, a Pentagon contractor where she served on the board of directors.
They have also pointed to Flournoy’s role as co-founder of WestExec Advisers, whose primary business is helping US companies with global footprints navigate geopolitical risk, as a concern. Flounroy founded the consulting firm with Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken.
“In Flournoy’s case, the seeming alignment between the interests of her clientele and her stated policy positions — such as her desire to continue selling arms to Saudi Arabia as late as 2019, which is out of step with Biden and essentially all congressional Democrats, is especially worrisome,” David Segal, co-founder and executive director of the group Demand Progress, told CNN.
A spokesperson for Flournoy pushed back on that assertion, telling CNN, “Michele’s private sector experiences do not influence her policy views or work.” The spokesperson also noted that Flournoy “has no involvement in contracting or business development with any client, including the US government” as a member of Booz Allen’s board of directors.
A WestExec spokesperson told CNN that the firm undertakes “an intensive client vetting process to ensure that the companies with which we work and the nature of the work we do for them meet our strict ethical standards.”
Candidates face scrutiny over ties to defense contractors
While serving on the board of a defense contractor is considered a conflict and typically…
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