Donald Trump recently said there are certain jobs he only trusts wealthy executives to perform, but Republican Senator John McCain would prefer they not be military positions.
“I said I did not want people from the top five corporations [for Pentagon positions],” McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters Tuesday, according to DefenseNews. “We’ve had a couple, and that’s okay, but I don’t want [more of] them.”
McCain and Trump have long held opposing views on the military. Trump also famously declared during the campaign that in his opinion real war heroes — unlike McCain, who was held captive and tortured in Vietnam for almost 6 years — don’t get caught.
The Pentagon’s defense budget is dominated by five companies — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman — who rake in tens of billions of dollars in government contracts every year.
McCain has been expressing similar frustrations for weeks following a slew of industry nominees for top Department of Defense positions, including Patrick Shanahan, a Boeing executive; Ellen Lord, the chief executive of Textron Systems; and David Ehrhart, the former Associate General Counsel for Lockheed Martin. Another exec, Lockheed’s head of international sales, John Rood, is also reportedly expected to be nominated.
Shanahan went in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 20 for his confirmation hearing, which included several prickly exchanges with McCain, who at one point threatened to block his nomination.
“Do not do that again, Mr. Shanahan, or I will not take your name up for a vote before this committee. Am I perfectly clear?” McCain said after Shanahan wavered on the U.S.’s support of Ukraine in countering Russian aggression.
The Trump administration has been the slowest administration to fill out presidential appointments out of at least the five previous administrations. Just six of the 53 Pentagon positions have been filled, according to the Partnership for Public Services’ political appointee tracker. The State Department is even more vacant than the DoD, with six out of nine senior officials at State missing and nine out of 125 positions filled.
Still, despite the sharp words from his own side of the aisle, Trump is blaming the Democrats for the backlog. Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders bashed Senate Democrats in Wednesday’s White House press briefing, saying they were “abusing Senate procedure to hold up the President’s experienced and accomplished nominees so that he can continue his work on behalf of the American people.”