Championing Responsible National Security Policy

New Database Tracks Revolving Door Between DoD and Defense Industry

The Revolving Door

A new database released by the Pentagon revealed that hundreds of senior defense officials requested ethics opinions as they moved from federal jobs to the private sector. A large majority, 84 percent, had a specific employer in mind, most of which were defense companies. The database was released to watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) following a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The training and know-how of Department of Defense (DoD) employees is valuable to private companies that are vying for federal dollars. According to the database, many of the employees looking to enter the revolving door were planning on exiting to some of the biggest defense contractors–13 people listed Lockheed Martin as a potential employer, seven listed Boeing, ten listed Raytheon, and 13 listed Northrop Grumman.

According to POLITICO , the database includes a total of 379 listings of requested ethics opinions from January 2012 to May 2013. It does not include the actual opinions, but CREW did separately receive a number of heavily censored opinions from the DoD following the lawsuit.

Under the National Defense Authorization Act, senior leaders in the Pentagon and any DoD officials handling contracts worth more than $10 million are required to request an ethics opinion if they are retiring and plan to work for a defense company within two years.

The executive director of CREW spoke to POLITICO about the database.

“The moral of the story is the revolving door is alive and well,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Top DoD officials understand the inner workings of the Pentagon — and particularly how the Pentagon makes contracting decisions.”

Hiring those officials is considered a “good investment,” she said.

The revolving door between the federal and private worlds is a common feature in Washington. The Project On Government Oversight has reported extensively on the trend, which frequently swings between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Wall Street. Our SEC Revolving Door Database is an easily searchable resource for post-employment disclosures from former SEC employees who have moved on to the financial industry.

Image by Flickr user Thomas Hawk.