Under a newly revealed arrangement that makes the famous “revolving door” seem quaint, retired military officers are simultaneously drawing paychecks both from the government and from private sector businesses gunning for Pentagon contracts, according to a USA Today investigation.
A defense consulting firm out in Colorado called Durango Group, which helps companies obtain DOD contracts, sits at the center of this lucrative arrangement.
About a quarter, or 15, of the retired officers who get a Durango paycheck are also paid by taxpayers in the military’s “mentor” program (at a rate of hundreds of dollars per hour), according to USA Today. They also get hefty military pensions, and many sit on the boards of defense contractors.
Through their military work, these mentors have access to sensitive information that can be leveraged into unbeatable business advice for companies — Boeing, for example — looking for government contracts, who in turn pay Durango for the privilege.
While the firm and officers might see this as synergy, others see it as an ethical breach. The watchdog group Public Citizen called it an “amazing conflict of interest” in an interview with USA Today.
The story on Durango is the latest in an excellent USA Today series on the growing senior mentors program. The series has prompted Defense Secretary Bob Gates to order a review of the program.
But Durango doesn’t seem embarrassed by the arrangement. It advertises its consultants’ special ties to the military on its Web site. Conflict of interest rules don’t apply because mentors are technically contractors for the military, not employees.
Durango founder Gen. Ronald Fogleman, who retired as chief of staff of the Air Force in 1997, himself has worked as a senior mentor for the military.
USA Today reports that in his capacity as a mentor, Fogleman took part in a major Air Force space war game in 2007. At that war game, new tech concepts including a long-range unmanned drone were tested out. Soon after, Boeing, one of Fogleman’s clients, announced it was developing such a drone for military uses.
The whole story on Durango is here.