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Exposing Corruption and Preventing Abuse of Power

Two Former Watchdogs Ring in the New Year on the Other Side of the Revolving Door

The Revolving Door

Welcome to another episode of "As the Washington Revolving Door Turns." The two latest ex-government officials to land jobs with private companies formerly served as very high-profile watchdogs of those companies.

The first revolver is Michael Thibault, former co-chairman and commissioner of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan (CWC). The CWC released its final report in August and officially sunset a month later—with all of its internal records sealed from public view until 2031, unfortunately. Last month, Thibault joined DynCorp International as its vice president of government finance and compliance. Thibault worked for many years at the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), serving as Deputy Director from 1994 until 2005. Between his government postings at the DCAA and CWC, Thibault briefly worked for federal contractors Navigant Consulting and Unisys.

DynCorp, one of the three primary LOGCAP IV contractors, is currently the 32nd largest contractor in POGO’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database. It has nine instances of misconduct since the early 2000s and $19.6 million in penalties. Readers of POGO’s blog are probably familiar with some of DynCorp’s checkered history, as are those who saw the 2010 movie “The Whistleblower”, which was based on the harrowing experiences of former DynCorp employee Kathryn Bolkovac.

The second revolver is Gordon Heddell, who resigned as the Pentagon’s Inspector General on Christmas Eve. The text of Heddell’s farewell email message is posted below. POGO has learned that Heddell also landed a job with a top-tier federal contractor, the global consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

Booz Allen, the 29th largest contractor in POGO’s database, has two misconduct instances and $3.7 million in penalties. Although it has a relatively blemish-free history, it should be noted that Booz Allen derives a substantial amount of business from contracts with the Defense Department.

Booz Allen confirmed with POGO that Heddell was hired last month as a Senior Executive Advisor.

Unlike some revolving door situations, the hiring of Michael Thibault and Gordon Heddell seems based more on higher principle than on purely political or economic gain. We can only hope that the skills they developed as watchdogs and fighters of fraud, waste, and abuse will continue to serve the public interest.

POGO has long warned about the dangers of the revolving door (see, for example, our 2004 report, The Politics of Contracting). The movement of officials between the government and private companies that do business with the government can lead to bad contracting decisions. The dangers are especially pronounced with regard to the Defense Department, which typically accounts for two-thirds to three-quarters of all federal contract spending each year on goods and services affecting vital national security interests. That’s why POGO urges the government to open to the public its database of Pentagon acquisition officials who leave government service to work for contractors.

Find former Department of Defense Inspector General Gordon Heddell's farewell email below.

Image via (rt48state).

From: Heddell, Gordon S., OIG DoD

Sent: Thursday, December 22, 2011 4:13 PM

To: List .All Users

Subject: Farewell Message from the IG

To All,

As I turn another chapter in my life, I would like to share some final thoughts on our time together and my hope for the future of the DoD IG.

At the end of my 43 year career as a public servant, I can tell you that the values I held true as a young man while serving in Army aviation are the same values I hold today: integrity, selfless commitment to a greater good, and candor marked by transparency when dealing with others.

In the DoD IG, we are working for the greater good by providing oversight and ensuring that the hard earned dollars of the American taxpayer are put to efficient and transparent use. We are in the business of making positive change and requiring accountability. It is for good reason that the motto on the seal of the Inspector General contains the words Integrity and Efficiency.

I believe that the mission of the IG allows the American people to see how their government functions in their name. My belief in that mission explains my optimism that as long as the American people are provided knowledge gained through transparency, our Republic will be ready and equipped to meet any challenge. Your dedication to that mission is essential, satisfying, and noble.

In reviewing the past 3 years, I would note that we have actively pursued new approaches. We have engaged the many institutions of civil society to include reaching out to non-government organizations, and we have looked for new ways to share the story of our work with the American public.

We have made great strides towards ensuring that transparency is part of our IG culture. We are already on a path to creating a whistleblower program that can be a role model throughout the Federal government. That effort is coupled with expanding the accessibility of the Defense Hotline to those who want to report concerns relating to health and safety and waste, fraud and abuse.

A credible whistleblower program, after all, not only enhances transparency, but it also increases the confidence of sources who come to the Inspector General, that their civic mindedness will be appreciated and they will be protected from reprisal.

A tribute to all of you is that the quality and importance of our work continues to be recognized by the Congress of the United States. When the consolidated Appropriation Act, 2012, is enacted by the President this year, the DoD IG is designated to receive a $57 million increase above the original amount budgeted for Fiscal Year 2012. It is deeply satisfying as I retire, knowing that I have made every effort to leave the DoD IG fully resourced and positioned on a firm foundation for the future.

I believe that the Department and our warfighters should be profoundly grateful to you for the work that you do. It is not by chance that the United States military is the most capable in the world. This high level of efficiency and effectiveness is due, in no small part, to your efforts.

I also want to further assure you about the future. Upon my departure, Lynne Halbrooks, Principal Deputy Inspector General, will become the Acting Inspector General. Lynne has all the qualities to provide leadership to the DoD IG and has been my steadfast partner in working with you.

Under the Vacancies Reform Act, Lynne can serve as the Acting IG for up to 210 days. If the President has not submitted a nomination to the Senate by the end of that time period, she will continue to serve as the head of the agency in her capacity as the Principal Deputy IG. Lynne would continue to serve as the Acting IG should the President send a nomination to the Senate. I hope that you will extend to her the same trust and friendship that I have enjoyed.

In closing, I am reminded of General Douglas MacArthur, who in commenting on his career said: “old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” The time has come, to say goodbye to you – the men and women of the DoD IG – who I have come to appreciate and admire so very much.

It has been an honor, and a privilege, to count you as colleagues and friends. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season.