Senator John McCain went on the record Thursday to say he is wary of the high numbers of defense industry executives finding their way into high level positions in the Pentagon.

During a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to confirm nominees for positions which have long been left vacant, McCain expressed concern that too many nominees with similar backgrounds were being floated to fill positions like service secretaries.

In his opening statement, McCain told Mark Esper, Vice President of Raytheon and Trump’s current nominee for Secretary of the Army, his worries over nominees “grew out of early consultations I had with the administration about potential nominations, including yours and a handful of others that were yet to be nominated.” McCain said “it was then that I decided I couldn’t support further nominees with that background, beyond those we had already discussed.”

If confirmed Esper will follow another service secretary with ties to the defense industry. In May, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, was approved. Wilson was a defense industry consultant after her time as a Congresswoman. Recently confirmed deputy defense secretary Patrick Shanahan was a senior Boeing executive, and undersecretary of defense for acquisition Ellen Lord was CEO of Textron Systems, another aerospace and defense conglomerate.

McCain did not elaborate more on his point regarding why he is concerned about these nominee’s backgrounds, but he has over the years warned against the prospect of the “military industrial complex” in government, specifically with regard to the troubled F-35 program, a program which he has described as being rife with “disturbing” decision making. Referring to decisions made by Pentagon officials to keep fees high to benefit Lockheed executives involved with the program, McCain said “This is, of course, totally unacceptable. It is the kind of cronyism that should make us all vigilant against, as President Eisenhower warned us over 50 years ago, the military-industrial complex.”

Despite voicing concerns over the backgrounds of these nominees, McCain has still gone on to support their confirmation.

Image courtesy of U.S. Senate

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