The Pentagon is going through a shakeup at the top, but the influence of major defense and aerospace companies holds firm.
Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive who served as acting secretary since February, withdrew his nomination and resigned from his Pentagon post Tuesday. Mark Esper, current Secretary of the Army and a former Raytheon lobbyist, will serve as the new acting Secretary of Defense.
Esper worked as vice president of governmental relations for Raytheon from 2010 to 2017 before taking the Trump administration job. He was a registered lobbyist for more than a decade, representing the Aerospace Industries Association of America and then the U.S. Chamber of Commerce before lobbying on behalf of the defense giant.
Esper has a distinguished military background. Having served as a rifle platoon leader in the Gulf War, his battalion helped make up the “left hook” of 350,000 troops that drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.
Following his military service, Esper worked for Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and worked his way up to director for national security affairs for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) before leaving for the private sector.
During his time with Raytheon, Esper focused on providing input on defense spending authorization bills crucial to the company’s bottom line, working specifically on acquisition policy and missile systems in 2016. Raytheon posted record federal lobbying spending during Esper’s tenure, peaking in 2013 when it shelled out more than $7.6 million.
Esper is one of many lobbyists to take a spin through the revolving door into — and out of — the Trump administration. Other high profile examples include Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former oil and gas lobbyist, and Federal Aviation Administer Dan Elwell, a former American Airlines lobbyist who has communicated with his ex-colleagues as a government official.
The current Army undersecretary is Ryan D. McCarthy, a combat veteran and former Lockheed Martin executive who worked on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
As a former executive of a rival aerospace manufacturer, Shanahan raised eyebrows when he criticized Lockheed Martin over the F-35 fighter jet, which has been marred by setbacks and accidents but remains a focal point for the Pentagon.
Shanahan worked for Boeing for three decades before joining the Pentagon to serve under then-Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Shanahan’s withdrawal came several hours after USA Today revealed that the FBI was “examining” a violent 2010 domestic dispute between Shanahan and then-wife Kimberley. President Donald Trump said Shanahan removed himself from consideration to spend more time with his family.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: We would like to think that the FBI has more urgent things to investigate than a possible domestic dispute that may have happened nine years ago.)