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Pentagon’s ‘Revolving Door’ Still Open : Law to Slow Jumps to Jobs at Contractors Is Ignored, GAO Says

Times Staff Writer

There is little enforcement and implementation of laws designed to close the “revolving door” between defense contractors and the Pentagon, according to a government audit, and one congressman said the situation amounts to “a rape” of the laws’ intent.

At issue is a 1986 law requiring some Pentagon officials to wait two years after leaving the Defense Department before accepting a job from defense contractors with whom they had had dealings as government employees.

The report by the General Accounting Office found that procedures designed to implement the law have been routinely ignored, a GAO official told a House subcommittee Wednesday.

During 1986 and 1987, for instance, only 30% of the former Defense Department employees required to report their post-Pentagon employment had actually done so, GAO Associate Director Martin M. Ferber told members of the investigations subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

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Despite this, an attorney for the Defense Department testified that no fines had been levied against former officials.

Ferber also questioned the process by which the Defense Department advises former employees on the legality of their future work. In most cases, he said, the written opinions state that the desired future employment will not violate the law.

Rep. Charles E. Bennett (D-Fla.), one of the authors of the legislation, said the law has not been effective. “I think the spirit of this law has been raped,” he said. “The law may be in many ways ineffective in curtailing the types of abuses in the manner Congress intended.”

As an example of the problems with the law, Bennett referred to a story last year in the Los Angeles Times about an Air Force colonel in charge of rocket launch systems at the Air Force Space division in El Segundo who took a job with a commercial division of a major defense contractor just days after leaving the Pentagon.

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In that story, the former officer, Victor W. Whitehead, said he was “absolutely within the spirit and letter of the law” in going to work for Martin Marietta Commercial Titan Inc.

At the hearing, Bennett asked a Pentagon attorney whether he had sent a letter advising former Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci that he was not violating the law by sitting on the boards of four major defense contractors.

Since leaving the Pentagon in January, Carlucci has joined the boards of Kaman Corp., Westinghouse Electric, RAND Corp. and Ashland Oil. Kaman, Westinghouse and Ashland Oil all ranked among the top 100 defense contractors in 1987. RAND is a think tank in Santa Monica that depends heavily on Pentagon contracts.

Bennett said Carlucci probably is not breaking the law but that his affiliation with the contractors so soon after leaving the Defense Department proves that current laws are inadequate and poorly enforced.

David Ream, an attorney for the Defense Department, said he could not remember whether a letter had been sent to Carlucci. Ream blamed lax enforcement of the “revolving door” legislation on its complexity and urged the lawmakers to “fine-tune” it.


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