Celebrated by her admirers as a scourge of big business, Sen. Elizabeth Warren looks somewhat less like a populist when it comes to covering for her home state's major defense contractors — and she is not anxious to discuss the apparent contradiction, Politico reports.
The Massachusetts Democrat has pushed the Pentagon to buy goods from Bay State defense giants including General Dynamics, even as the products have drawn failing grades from soldiers in the field and been criticized for cost overruns, Politico says.
Warren lobbied then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in 2013 to purchase Army Manpack radios manufactured by General Dynamic "despite the poor grades they'd received in combat tests" and a preliminary bidding process that shut out all but two contractors, Politico reports.
Warren wrote to Hagel touting the radios as "technology and acquisition success stories." Soldiers actually using them complained that the 35-pound field communications devices were glitchy, unwieldy, and radiated excessive heat, Defense News reports.
Last May, the Army's top weapons tester declared the Manpacks "not operationally suitable."
Shortly after her 2012 election, Warren also wrote to Hagel and Secretary of the Army John McHugh to stop the Pentagon from cutting funds to a General Dynamics battlefield communications network called WIN-T, or Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, that has drawn scrutiny from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for cost overruns and technical lapses, Politico reports.
In 2013 the Pentagon was trying to shift $128 million in WIN-T funding to cover Afghanistan war costs. That move was blocked, and Warren's support was "crucial" in keeping the funds flowing, a Boston-based defense lobbyist, Joseph Donavan, told Politico.
Neither Warren nor her spokesperson responded to requests from Politico for comment.
Defense contracting isn't the only question mark on Warren's woman-of-the-people persona.
"The senator, long a staunch advocate for stronger financial regulations, has faced stinging criticism for pushing proposals viewed as giveaways to the medical device industry, which has a big presence in Massachusetts," Politico reports.
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