January 23, 2013

Revolving Door at Sea

By CREW Staff

Coast Guard SealIn a report last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the majority of high-ranking Coast Guard officials who retired between 2006 and 2010 have since worked for major Coast Guard contractors.  Of course, government officials’ spinning through the revolving door isn’t likely to shock anyone who is paying attention.  In fact, the GAO report comes on the heels of research by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) that found 70 percent of the 108 three- and four-star generals and admirals who retired between 2009 and 2011 took jobs with defense contractors or consultants. 

What is interesting about the GAO’s Coast Guard report, however, is that it is part of a regular audit.  In the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, Congress ordered an annual report on the compensation of former Coast Guard officials by Coast Guard contractors in a given period.  This is only the second report, and the numbers of Coast Guard officials going through the revolving door didn’t change much from one year to the next.  Nonetheless, the requirement means the public will eventually have access to useful data on the revolving door at the Coast Guard over time.

For some reason, even though the revolving door is a problem throughout the federal government, Congress doesn’t require similar annual reports for other agencies and departments.  GAO has produced studies on the revolving door at other agencies, but because the reports aren’t updated regularly, the public can’t track trends.  For instance, in July 2011, the GAO released a report on the revolving door at the Securities and Exchange Commission, but that was a one-time study mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  Similarly, when the GAO last issued a report on post-government employment of Pentagon officials, the audit was a result of a one-time request in the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007.

Snapshots of the revolving door are useful, but the information gets out of date quickly.  For instance, CREW’s research for the Strategic Maneuvers report, which was completed late last year, covered retirements between 2009 and 2011. Since then, a whole new class of generals and admirals have retired and taken defense industry jobs.  On January 7, Northrop Grumman announced that Navy Vice Admiral P. Stephen Stanley, who retired in May 2012, will be the company’s new vice president for cybersecurity/c4.  Vice Adm. Stanley is replacing retired Vice Admiral David “Jack” Dorsett, who was highlighted in CREW’s report.  Vice Adm. Dorsett is now the vice president of Northrop’s integrated mission systems business.  In another example, two 2012 retirees, Air Force General Norton Schwartz and Navy Admiral John Harvey, recently became “advisors” to RallyPoint, a military networking startup.  It’s clear the revolving door is an ongoing problem.  Monitoring it should be an ongoing project — and not just when it comes to the Coast Guard.

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