Secretary of defense nominee faces questions from senators

WASHINGTON (WCAX) New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was among lawmakers Tuesday questioning President Trump's choice for secretary of defense.

Mark Esper-File photo

Mark Esper graduated from West Point and went on to serve in the 101st Airborne Division in the Gulf War. After leaving the military he worked at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and as a lobbyist for the defense contractor Raytheon. He also advised Senator Chuck Hagel and worked in the Pentagon during the George W. Bush administration. He's been the secretary of the Army since 2017.

Shaheen asked Esper about the discovery of PFAS contaminations at military installations across the country, including New Hampshire.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: If confirmed, can you commit to taking a stronger, more proactive stance to address PFAS contamination issues that are affecting our installations and communities?

Mark Esper: Absolutely, senator, this is an important issue. We need to own it and I don't know if we have a task force, for example in place, but if confirmed that is something I would look at dong to make sure that all services would be coordinated and we're approaching the problem in an aggressive and holistic way.

The hearing grew more heated later on when Sen. Elizabeth Warren pressed Esper about his time as the top lobbyist for Raytheon. She was critical of his continued ties to the defense contractor. He refused to recuse himself from any official business with his former employer.