98 Percent of Former Military Officers Drop Out of Pentagon Program after Financial Disclosure
Project on Government Oversight POGO November 9, 2011
Since Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered the Pentagon to require “senior mentors” to file public financial disclosure documents, 98 percent of the retired senior officers have left the program, according to a Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG) report released on October 31.
The controversial “senior mentors” program refers to the Pentagon’s practice of hiring retired military officers, one to four stars in rank, as part-time government advisors. According to USA Today, in exchange for offering advice to former colleagues, these mentors made as much as $330 an hour—more than triple what they made as active officers.
On top of that, USA Today revealed that of 158 identified senior mentors, 80 percent had financial ties to defense contractors—and 29 were full-time executives of defense companies. As POGO’s former national security investigator Mandy Smithberger pointed out, this practice showed that “the revolving door between the Pentagon and the defense industry is alive and well…and raises many ethical questions that merit additional investigation by Congress and the Inspector General.”
After the Senate Armed Services Committee exerted pressure, the Pentagon ordered an overhaul of the program in April 2010. The resulting memorandum [which was revised again in November, 2010] included subjecting mentors to federal conflict of interest laws, such as preventing mentors from divulging non-public information to defense contractors, or taking action that has “a direct and predictable” effect on their private interests. It also required all members of the program to disclose their employers, earnings and stocks.
The resulting Inspector General audit aimed to determine whether DoD implemented and complied with the memorandum. It determined that of the 194 reported senior mentors in fiscal year 2010, 11 converted to the title of “highly qualified expert” (HQE) and the rest are no longer working in the senior mentor program.