In a letter earlier this month, progressive Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Barbara Lee of California urged Biden not to select a new nominee for the Pentagon job with a track record of working with defense contractors—a trip wire during the confirmation hearing of President Donald Trump’s former Defense Secretary Mark Esper. The former secretary, who was recently fired by tweet, was a senior lobbyist for Raytheon, a major defense contractor, before joining the Trump administration. Flournoy serves on the board of Booz Allen Hamilton and, along with Blinken, founded WestExec Advisors, a Washington consulting firm that reportedly advises the defense industry, private equity firms, and hedge funds.
But Flournoy’s wide experience in the Defense Department, which began nearly three decades ago in the Clinton administration as a principal deputy assistant secretary of defense and carried her through the Obama administration, where she served as the agency’s Senate-confirmed undersecretary of defense for policy, is seen as likely to help her clear a possible Republican-controlled Senate. She also became known for co-founding the Center for a New American Security in 2007, a bipartisan think tank focused on defense issues.
Still, some progressive foreign-policy experts view her consulting work as a liability, fearing her ties to the defense industry could pose conflicts of interest if she were to take up the top post at the Pentagon.