WestExec Advisors home to several likely Biden cabinet appointees

30 November 2020 Consulting.us
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WestExec Advisors, a DC-based strategy consulting firm, is home to several consultants who are likely to occupy key positions in the new Biden administration, according to a recent Politico report.

Managing partner Tony Blinken is Biden’s choice for secretary of State, while managing partner Michele Flournoy is a top contender for secretary of Defense. Meanwhile, former principal Avril Haines is Biden’s choice for director of national intelligence.

WestExec was founded in 2017, and is composed of numerous senior national security professionals from the Obama administration. Blinken was formerly the deputy secretary of State and Flournoy was formerly the undersecretary of Defense for policy (the number three position at the Pentagon). The consulting firm’s other two managing partners, Sergio Aguirre and Nitin Chadda, are former White House national security council directors.

Now that the White House has turned over to the Democrats, the firm’s consultants can cross back over to high-level government jobs. They can do so because they aren’t registered lobbyists, instead billing themselves as strategic advisors.

WestExec Advisors home to several likely Biden cabinet appointees

That means WestExec consultants don’t directly advocate for federal money on behalf of their clients, so they don’t have to publicly report who is paying them to perform what activities.

Instead, the firm’s team of 38 defense, foreign policy, intelligence, and cybersecurity professionals help businesses form strategy through their deep knowledge of US foreign and national security policies. The firm also brings “the full power of our network to bear in helping clients navigate rapidly emerging challenges and opportunities,” according to WestExec’s website.

So they provide expertise and influence, but stop short of the explicit lobbying line of directly asking the DOD to give their client a contract. And while the heavily Democrat-staffed consulting firm couldn’t necessarily offer White House access and influence during the Trump interregnum, assuredly many of their colleagues and contacts at various agencies remained, as well as their knowledge of how the government sausage gets made.

Like other consulting firms (such as McKinsey), WestExec is tight-lipped about its client roster. However, Flournoy in a 2019 interview with the University of Chicago related that the company was helping Silicon Valley startups land contracts at the Pentagon. “It is one of the things that WestExec is trying to help with,” she said. “How do you let these smaller, cutting-edge technology firms actually navigate the DoD and national security space?”

As for client disclosure, Biden cabinet appointees will only have to disclose their most recent clients, but not older ones. Meredith McGehee, ED of Washington good government group Issue One, told Politico that consultants entering the Biden cabinet should go beyond the requirements of the law and publicly disclose all clients for which they have performed significant work.