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From Battlefield to Boardroom: Facilitating the DoD Revolving Door

U.S. Army soldier hands his business card to a man in a suit
(Photo: losangelesdistrict / Flickr)

The Project On Government Oversight has learned of a new avenue the private sector is using to facilitate the revolving door between the Department of Defense (DoD) and defense contractors. The National Association for Corporate Directors (NACD) has a “board development program” specifically for high-ranking retired and soon-to-be retired military officers. As part of that program, NACD invites executives of companies—including many large federal contracting firms—to participate. It’s descriptively titled From Battlefield to Boardroom.

Since 2011 NACD’s conference has essentially become a recruiting fair to match exiting military officers with private companies looking to hire new leadership. Though the program claims to provide guidance through a speaker series and small group discussions on how the high-ranking service members can employ their leadership skills in post-military life, there seems to be the underlying priority of strengthening the relationship between the private and public sectors—facilitating the revolving door.

One-third of the two-day program is dedicated to networking, including six 15-minute networking breaks, two networking lunches, and one networking cocktail gathering. With the abundance of executives and board members in attendance, these frequent networking opportunities turn the conference into the perfect marketplace for contractors to snatch up the next generation of connections to the Pentagon. If retired or soon-to-be retired officers are unsuccessful at being directly recruited at the conference, the NACD program offers a free year-long membership in the NACD’s Director’s Registry to “precisely” match boards with their “ideal” candidate.

Several graduates of From Battlefield to Boardroom illustrate how the program is used as a tool to further a company’s influence in the federal government:

  • Mike Boera, a retired Air Force Major General, was hired shortly after completing the 2015 program. His LinkedIn profile shows that he became the Executive of Intelligence, Information and Services (IIS) at Raytheon in March 2015. Before retiring from the Air Force, Boera held positions as Director of Air Force Programs and Director of Requirements, where he was tasked with developing programs, business plans, and budgets for different systems, including Command and Control (C2). His expertise in C2 is likely the quality that attracted Raytheon, since he describes his new role at Raytheon as “providing key leadership and insight within Command and Control (C2) Operations Center market for Raytheon IIS business sector.”
  • Nevin Carr, retired from the Navy after reaching the rank of Rear Admiral. After completing the 2015 program he became the U.S. Navy Strategic Account Executive to Leidos in May 2015. In the Navy, Carr served as the Chief of Naval Research and was responsible for the Navy’s research and technology development. As Michael Leiter, a Vice President at Leidos, described in the company press release announcing Carr’s new position, Leidos capitalized on this “invaluable experience and insight of the naval market” by appointing Carr to head their Navy Strategic Account. Carr’s new responsibilities include: “identifying and executing strategic initiatives to achieve customer mission success, and growing the company’s naval and maritime business.”
  • Janice Hamby, a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral who graduated from the NACD program, was named to Cubic Corporation’s Board of Directors in April 2015. NACD stated that Hamby was selected through its recruitment services. Cubic Corp.’s press release announcing the hiring of Hamby describes the value of her 30 years of experience in the U.S. Navy cybersecurity arena. Her previous position as DoD’s Deputy Chief Information Officer gives Cubic Corp. confidence that her “knowledge will strengthen the corporation and how [they] deal with these issues.”

Raytheon, Leidos, and Cubic Corp., like many of the others that appear to hire out of the conference, are influential defense contractors that view hiring ex-military officers as an investment. Washington Technology, in its 2015 Top 100 Defense Revenue list, ranked Raytheon 4th with $4.4 billion in revenue from DoD; Leidos 16th with $1.1 billion in revenue from DoD; and Cubic Corp. was 77th with $204.3 million.

POGO contacted these three corporations asking about their involvement in the From Battlefield to Boardroom program and recruiting practices in general, but all were unwilling to comment.

The conference has another networking element that may easily go under the radar: retired high-ranking military officers invited to participate include those already working in the private sector. Companies that send executives to the conference as participants are able to position themselves to recruit and network on a separate, more personal, level.  As co-participants, they are able to really get to know potential candidates during every step of the conference.  At the 2015 conference, there were five participants representing defense contractors: Nevin Carr, Vice President, AECOM Technology (Carr was recruited to Leidos after the conference); Edward Dryer, Vice President, Allison Transmission; Erwin Lessel, Director, Deloitte Consulting LLP; Clyde Moore, Executive Vice President, Dayton Aerospace; and Charles Wald, Vice President, Deloitte, Services LP.

From Battlefield to Boardroom’s Steering Committee also embodies the program’s emphasis on encouraging public to private movement. Four out of the ten external members—who make strategic decisions about the conference, including creating the conference’s curriculum—represent interests of several defense contractors: Sodexo, Polycom, ViaSystems Technologies, L-3 Communications, and Textron. Two committee members, Gen. James Conway and Gen. Henry Hugh Shelton, are worth highlighting. Both attained among the highest ranks in the military before retiring and joining the board of powerful defense contractors. Conway retired as Commandant of the Marine Corps and joined Textron’s Board of Directors; Shelton retired not only an Army general but also as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and joined L-3 Communication’s Board.

The revolving door between the DoD and the private sector is well-documented. A Freedom of Information Act request by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) found that between January 2012 to May 2013, 379 defense officials had requested ethics opinions before leaving the Department for the private sector. Of those, 84 percent already had an employer in mind, with many planning to work for defense contractors. Though not technically illegal (aside from certain restrictions), From Battlefield to Boardroom seems to accelerate and facilitate the defense revolving door, increasing the likelihood of conflict of interests and unethical and wasteful policy decisions.

POGO asked NACD for information on the whereabouts of other program graduates but the organization was unwilling to provide any additional information.

By: Meg Lentz
Intern, POGO

meg-lentz Meg Lentz is an intern at the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: Government Accountability

Related Content: Ethics, Lobbying, Conflicts of Interest, Revolving Door, DOD Oversight, Wasteful Defense Spending

Authors: Meg Lentz

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