Super Pentagon Conflict of Interest: Advisors Rake in Billions

In its press announcement, the Defense Science Board notes John Deutch is a “former deputy secretary of defense” and that he currently works for MIT. What isn’t mentioned is that Deutch is a former CIA director (and was also, as Susan Ferrechio of the Washington Examiner writes, “stripped of his security clearance after it was discovered he downloaded classified information on his home computer”). Also notable by its absence in his bio is the fact that Deutch, in addition to serving on the board of directors of Citigroup, the mammoth bank that got a sweetheart bailout deal from the federal government in 2008, also sits on the board of directors at defense giant Raytheon, the fifth largest DoD contractor of 2009 (with more than $15 billion in contracts). And he isn’t alone. Fellow DSB member Taylor W. Lawrence (PDF) is not only a former staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, but today serves as a vice president at Raytheon and heads its Missile Systems division.

The list and the omissions go on and on. Michael W. Hagee (PDF) is, indeed, as his DSB bio says, a former commandant of the Marine Corps and the president and CEO of the Admiral Nimitz Foundation, which runs the Texas-based National Museum of the Pacific War. Hagee is also, however, on the Board of Directors of Cobham plc, a defense contractor that received hundreds of millions of dollars in deals from the Pentagon in 2009.

The DSB bills Paul J. Kern as a “former Commanding General, Army Materiel Command,” but he’s really so much more. Kern is a revolving-door general extraordinaire who parlayed his 40 years in the Army into a retirement filled with fingers in an exceptional number of contractors’ pies. For example, Kern sits on the board of directors of multi-billion dollar defense contractor ITT, military robot-maker iRobot and military contractor CoVant; serves as the president and chief operating officer of defense contractor Am General; is adviser at the Battelle Memorial Institute, another defense contractor; and serves as a senior counselor at the Cohen Group, a consulting firm headed by former defense secretary William Cohen that boasts it “knows that getting to ‘yes’ in the aerospace and defense market — whether in the United States or abroad — requires that companies have a thorough, up-to-date understanding of the thinking of government decision makers.”

Kern isn’t alone at iRobot. Jacques Gansler is not only a former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and on faculty at defense contractor, the University of Maryland, as his DSB biography states, but also sits on iRobot’s board of directors.

In its press hand-out, the Defense Science Board hailed George Schneiter as both the former director of strategic and tactical systems in Office of the Secretary of Defense and an “independent consultant,” without listing the firms he had worked for. In fact, Schneiter has served as a consultant to defense contractors like Boeing, the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) and Aero Thermo Technology, in addition to working for the Aerospace Corporation. IDA, a non-profit corporation that administers three federally funded research and development centers, is also home to new Defense Science Board-member David S. C. Chu who took over as its president and CEO after serving as the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness at the Pentagon.

In its press materials, the DSB also noted that James Shields works for Draper Laboratory. Once the Instrumentation Laboratory at MIT, the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. formally separated from the university during the Vietnam War, while still maintaining close associations with MIT researchers. Today, Shields serves as president and CEO of Draper, whose stated mission is to “pioneer in the application of science and technology in the national interest.” What this really meant, in 2009, was over $400 million in contracts from the U.S. Navy, with lesser sums from the Army and Air Force.

New Defense Science Board senior fellow Ruth David is indeed a former deputy director for science and technology at the Central Intelligence Agency. She also, however, serves as president and CEO of Analytic Services Inc, a defense contractor that did tens of millions worth of business with the Department of Defense (as well as the Department of Homeland Security) in 2009. Alongside her is new DSB member Robert Lucky, who is billed only as a “former corporate vice president, research — Telcordia Technologies, and independent consultant,” but now serves as Analytic Services’ chairman of the board of trustees. Similarly, Ronald Kerber, whom the DSB refers to as a “former deputy under secretary of defense for research and advanced technology and former executive vice president, Whirlpool Corp,” was also formerly a vice president at defense giant McDonnell Douglas and currently also sits on Analytic Services’ board of trustees.

It remains to be seen if the many defense contractors represented on the Defense Science Board end up doing more business with the Pentagon in the future. Until greater scrutiny is given by the mainstream media and government watchdogs, we’re unlikely to know whether top industry insiders from companies with many millions, or even billions, to gain annually, can truly provide “independent, informed advice and opinion” on how the Pentagon will spend American tax dollars in the years to come.

The same people who sell the Pentagon billions of dollars in technology are advising the Pentagon on what scientific and technical matters to focus on in the years to come.

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