You’ve heard of the so-called revolving door— where people go from government jobs into related high-paying private industry jobs, raising questions about the decisions they made while working on a public salary. Watchdogs say the dynamic is pervasive in the US military. Dan Grazier is a former marine and a defense researcher and the watchdog Project on Government Oversight. He co-authored a new report that names names. It’s called “Brass Parachutes.”
Sharyl: In short form what would you say is the question you set out to answer in this new report?
Dan Grazier: We wanted to show through very detailed documentation about how many of these people go from a position of authority, where they had decision making abilities and decision making authority in the services, and then they made the jump after their retirement to work with companies who had connections with their previous work.
Sharyl: Does that happen a lot?
Dan Grazier: Yes. It happens a lot. More often than I think a lot of people in positions of authority would like to acknowledge.
Sharyl: Do any anecdotes stand out?
Dan Grazier: The clearest example possible is the former Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh. While he was the chief of staff, the Air Force awarded the contract for the next generation bomber, the B21 to Northrop Grumman. Within, it was less than a year after he retired from the Air Force, he was the chairman of the board of Northrop Grumman Corporation.
Sharyl: What does that tell you?
Dan Grazier: It definitely calls into question the process for awarding that contract. I think the thing that I always try to stress is that this impacts military effectiveness first and foremost, where the interests of the defense contractors do not always line up perfectly with what is most effective on the battlefield. There's Lieutenant General John Davis, a United States Marine Corps. He was the Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation. And that position, he was the top airmen. He was a top flyer for the Marine Corps. He served in that position when the Marine Corps declared the F35 initially operationally capable. And since he retired, he's gone to work with a Rolls Royce to help produce the F135 engine for the F35.
Dan Grazier: There was also rear Admiral Mark Kenny, United States Navy. He was the first director of the Navy's irregular warfare office and a year after he retired he joined major Pentagon contractor, Northrop Grumman as Vice President of irregular warfare programs.
Sharyl: So what would you say is the takeaway from what you learned?
Dan Grazier: It really calls into question a lot of decisions that are made because if you are a general and you're working on a specific program and then you go to work for a contractor that has something to do with that particular program that you were making decisions on in the service, it calls into question every decision that you made while you were in the service because what compromises did you have to make in order to set yourself up for that post retirement position?
Grazier’s report documented 645 cases of military officials departing and going on to work for big defense contractors like General Dynamics and Boeing.