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Unreleased Document: Pentagon Updates Revolving Door Rules

November 19, 2004 

 

With Bush Administration officials jumping ship, Washington is bracing once again for the revolving door to spin between the federal government and its contractors. An unreleased document obtained by POGO shows that the Defense Department has made some minor changes aimed at preventing government officials from selling favors in order to land lucrative jobs at contractors.

In recent months, Darleen Druyun, a former top U.S. Air Force acquisition official, and Michael Sears, Boeing's former CFO, pleaded guilty for conflict of interest and ethics crimes in connecting with the troubled Boeing tanker leasing deal. In recent weeks, it appears that departing Secretary of the Army James Roche may get snared in the scandal as well (click here to read more on this).

Unfortunately, the public may never know where departing officials go to work in the private sector, and therefore whether decisions unfairly benefited their new employer. The government does not release, or even track, where former employees go to work after leaving the government. Companies also appear to have ceased releasing statements about the latest official they lured away from civil service.

It appears, however, that the Department of Defense (DoD) is taking the revolving door slightly more seriously. On October 25, 2004, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz issued a memorandum which describes three minor changes to DoD conflict of interest and ethics regulations, including:

1. Annual Certification - requiring certain DoD employees to certify annually that they are aware of the conflict of interest and ethics restrictions and that they have not violated those restrictions.

2. Annual Ethics Briefing - requiring DoD offices to include training on relevant federal and DoD disqualification and employment restrictions in annual ethics briefings.

3. Guidance for Departing Personnel - requiring DoD offices to provide guidance on relevant post-government employment restrictions as part of out-processing procedures for personnel who leave the government.

Those changes follow some of the POGO's recommendations in its June 29, 2004 report "The Politics of Contracting", but do not go far enough.

"It's not enough to nibble around the edges - we need to close basic loopholes. Specifically, senior policy makers must be prevented from immediately going to work for a company that significantly benefited from their policy decisions while in the government. Additionally, a person should not be able to skirt the intent of conflict of interest laws by going to work for a different division of the same company over which they had direct oversight," stated Scott Amey, General Counsel of POGO.

Congress will be revisiting the revolving door in 2005. The House Armed Services Committee has requested a Government Accountability Office report on the revolving door. In addition, Senator John McCain will continue to draw attention to the issue. The Pentagon is conducting a review at the request of DoD Secretary Rumsfeld.
 


Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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