Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Wednesday asked Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist during a Senate Budget Committee hearing to provide him with a report detailing how the Defense Department can effectively negotiate CEO salaries of defense contractors.
Norquist said he was unaware of anything the Defense Department could do to impact the compensation of CEOs at private companies, but said U.S. taxpayers “should be paying for the service that we receive.”
Sanders said CEOs from DOD's top five contractors made a cumulative $96 million in compensation in 2016, pointing out that the CEO of Lockheed Martin earns 100 times more than the defense secretary.
Marillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin, earned nearly $20.6 million in 2016, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. During the hearing, Sanders seemed unaware that the chief executive of Lockheed Martin was a woman, referring to the CEO as "this guy."
"Does it make sense that we pay the Secretary of Defense $200,000 or less and we give a contractor, who gets 92 percent of his revenue from the taxpayers of this country, $18 million in taxpayer money?” Sanders said. “It sends a message if a corporation gets the overwhelming percentage of its revenue from the federal government to give their CEO a large salary. It tells me they’re going to do a lot of other things to ignore the needs of taxpayers.”
Sanders said that Lockheed, because the bulk of its revenue comes from taxpayers, is basically “a government agency, a private one, but a government agency virtually fully funded by U.S. government.”
A spokesman for Lockheed was not immediately available to provide comment.