Donald Trump, who has railed against the political influence of military contractors, denounced wasteful Pentagon spending, and promised a less interventionist foreign policy has nevertheless added to his transition team the leader of a group of defense contractors who advocate greater American militarism.
Michael Rogers, the hawkish former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, will be advising the Trump transition team on national security, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
After leaving Congress, Rogers founded a pressure group called Americans for Peace, Prosperity, and Security, intended to “help elect a president who supports American engagement and a strong foreign policy.”
As Lee Fang reported for The Intercept last year, the business executives helping APPS included several defense contractors who stand to gain financially from continued militarism.
At a rally in February, Trump criticized defense spending. “I will build a military bigger, better, stronger,” he said. “I guarantee we can do it for less money. I hear stories like they are ordering missiles they do not want because of politics; because of special interests. Because the company that makes the missiles is a contributor. … We are ordering missiles that the generals do not want because of politics.”
Trump has also advocated reduced military intervention. In July, when asked about the attempted coup in Turkey, he told the New York Times: “I think right now when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it’s very hard for us to get involved in other countries when we don’t know what we are doing and we can’t see straight in our own country.”
In the same interview, he argued against the NATO alliance: “We’re talking about countries that are doing very well. Then yes, I would be absolutely prepared to tell those countries, ‘Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.’”
Despite Trump’s noninterventionist talk, a financial analyst predicted in April that a Trump presidency would be good for the defense industry. In June, the Trump campaign met with representatives of defense contractors Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, the Daily Beast reported.
Defense contractors were also an important part of Rogers’s congressional bids. During his 2014 run, for example, he took campaign contributions from ManTech International, L-3 Communications, Motorola Solutions, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.
Rogers founded APPS with leftover campaign money after he retired from Congress last year. The group has held campaign events in which candidates discussed national security. Most recently, APPS held a national security forum at the RNC with Chris Christie.
Since last April, the group has held 27 forums on national security with 14 GOP candidates.
Rogers is part of a minority in the national security community that supports Trump — none of the other leaders at APPS has endorsed the candidate, for example.
APPS advisory board member Danielle Pletka, who is vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in CNN last month that Trump “not only knows nothing about national security, he doesn’t care to know.”
Kevin Madden, national advisor to APPS and senior advisor to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, told the Daily Beast in May that he will not vote for Trump.
And George W. Bush’s national security advisor, Stephen Hadley, a board member at APPS and Raytheon, declined to endorse either candidate.
Fifty Republican former national security officials recently signed a letter opposing Trump. Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush’s first defense secretary, is the most prominent national security expert to endorse Trump.
On Monday, Trump attacked the former national security officials who came out against him. He said in a statement that the letter was “politically motivated,” and that “they are nothing more than the failed Washington elite looking to hold onto their power.”