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Trump selects billionaire military contractor to lead intelligence board

(News Desk) – US President Donald Trump has chosen billionaire military contractor Stephen Feinberg as chair of his Intelligence Advisory Board that oversees the country’s intelligence community, deriving its influence from direct access to the president and his senior staff.

Feinberg is the co-founder, executive chairman and co-chief executive officer of Cerberus Capital Management, an investment firm that also owns defense contractor DynCorp International, which contracts security to the State Department and other agencies.

The New York Times reported last July that Steve Bannon, then the White House chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, had asked Feinberg, as well as Blackwater founder Erik Prince, for proposals to send private-sector workers to Afghanistan in place of American troops.

In March 2017, Feinberg joined Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on a trip to see the new aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford in Newport News, Virginia, after it was reported that Feinberg had held discussions with the administration about a review of US intelligence agencies.

Feinberg was rumored to be under consideration to lead some kind of broad-based review of the US intelligence community, which Trump blamed for creating obstacles in front of his administration and constantly hinting his collusion with the Russians.Feinberg will now at last head the so-called President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB) — a committee made up of non-government employees that gets access to a wide swath of intelligence information and acts as an independent monitor on the 17 agencies that make up the intelligence community.

The panel has no legal authority and its influence has risen and fallen depending on the president in question. President Jimmy Carter once disbanded it entirely.

Feinberg, who has no previous experience working in government intelligence, is the first person that Trump has appointed to the advisory board.

Some critics at the time assailed Feinberg as ill-equipped for the role. At a Senate hearing that month, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine expressed concern that “an individual who runs a private equity firm” and doesn’t have experience in the relevant areas was being considered for the job.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refuted such criticism and said in a statement on Friday that Feinberg is well-suited for the position as he “brings over 30 years of experience conducting organizational assessments, operational improvements, and complex reforms across foreign and domestic stakeholders to his position.”

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