The Department of Defense (DoD) has made a complete mess of its system for tracking former employees who go through the revolving door to jobs with the defense industry. According to an Inspector General review, DoD’s revolving door database, the After Government Employment Advisory Repository (AGEAR), offers “marginal value” because it is not complete.
In fact, the IG stated that “DoD may not have fully complied with the intent of [the] law,” and as a result of the system’s flaws, the DoD IG “could not use” the database to “reliably determine the quantitative data requested” by Congress. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 requires DoD to store certain employee requests for ethics opinions and the final written opinions in a central database. The noncompliance is extremely distressing because the IG found similar problems with AGEAR in 2010.
Unfortunately, AGEAR isn’t public, although there have been legal battles to obtain the data. It took an act of Congress (p. 187) by Representative Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and the House Armed Services Committee to get the DoD to offer a glimpse of the database and its compliance with the law. The IG had little if any good news, and provided a simple review summary of 379 post-2012 opinions requested by DoD officials and former officials. The Army (140 requests), Navy (124 requests), and Office of the Secretary of Defense (50 requests) accounted for more than 80 percent of the opinions requested.
According to the IG, its review was limited because AGEAR:
- has only limited records from January 2008 to December 2011, which the IG blamed on staffing and fiscal constraints;
- isn’t operating as a centralized database because numerous records are kept outside the system at multiple locations;
- is missing records for former employees of the Defense Logistics Agency and the National Security Agency; and
- contains incomplete and inconsistent data.
The IG recommended that DoD clarify whether a single centralized database is required rather than multiple and decentralized databases. Additionally, the IG recommended that an official or office be delegated the responsibility and authority to centrally supervise the program.
For years, the Project On Government Oversight has been concerned about the integrity of the federal contracting system and about the revolving door between the government and contractors. The Government Accountability Office agreed with POGO, finding that revolving door transparency is lacking. Beginning in 2010, POGO submitted FOIA requests for the DoD revolving door database, and some of those requests are still open—DoD hasn’t sent us records in nearly 4 years. Unfortunately, DoD doesn’t appear to be taking POGO, Congress, or the revolving door seriously. But what can you expect when the defense industry provides such a cushy landing spot for so many former DoD officials?