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A Populist? Elizabeth Warren Has Close Relationship With Defense Contractors

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a champion of populist sentiment against big business, apparently has a very tight relationship with defense contractors in her home state.

Soon after she was elected to the Senate in 2012, Warren found herself sending letters to then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh. She was advocating for the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, which was engineered by General Dynamics in Massachusetts, despite the Government Accountability Office pointing out its cost breaches and poor performance, Politico reports.

“The WIN-T and HMS programs are a great example of how investments in research and development can produce life-saving technologies that protect our soldiers and strengthen our national security,” said Warren in 2013. “Army modernization programs like these ensure our military is able to meet current and emerging threats. I will continue to advocate for important defense work here in Massachusetts to remain a top priority.”

Along with the letters, Warren stepped in to block the move to repurpose the $128 million dollars away from WIN-T and to the war in Afghanistan, which according to an anonymous defense executive, was “a big deal.”

Warren also went to the plate for General Dynamics a second time when she stated that Army Manpack radios were a technological success. But just last month, the chief weapons tester at the Pentagon stated that the radios, designed to provide voice and data communications in the field, were neither operationally suitable nor operationally effective, according to Defense News. The Manpack is 35 pounds and soldiers complained of the heat radiating off the device.

“I have seen the senator and her team take a very active role in defense matters in Massachusetts,” Joseph Donovan, a Boston-based defense lobbyist with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, told Politico. “I’ve been in roundtables that her office has organized with major defense contractors and small businesses.”

Raytheon has also reported regular, positive interactions with Warren and her staff.

During Warren’s Senate run in 2012, the defense industry supported incumbent Army National Guard veteran Scott Brown because of his position on the Senate Armed Services Committee and his ability to advocate for local military bases and contracts from the Pentagon. In fact, the defense industry in total contributed $319,000 dollars to Brown’s campaign and only $11,000 to Warren, according to the Boston Globe.

But even then, Warren showed signs of warming up to defense firms, with a call to William Swanson, Raytheon’s CEO, during the campaign, likely because of the sheer economic influence the defense industry wields in Massachusetts. According to analysis from the Defense Technology Initiative, the Massachusetts defense industry supported 175,000 jobs in 2011. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts in 2010 also found that the state is fifth in the nation for Department of Defense contracts. In the last 20 years, defense industry contracts have tripled to $15.6 billion dollars.

Warren has supported targeted cuts in other states, saying she won’t let the budget come down hard on the Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts. On her way to the Capitol on Friday morning, Warren refused to respond to questions from Politico about her close ties to the Massachusetts defense industry.

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