Private, Public Roles Overlap in Washington
Suzanne H. Woolsey is a trustee of a little-known defense consulting group that had inside access to senior Pentagon leaders directing the Iraq war. Last January, she joined the board of California-based Fluor Corp.
Soon afterward, Fluor and a joint venture partner won about $1.6 billion in Iraq reconstruction contracts.
Her husband, former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, a leading advocate for the war, is serving as a government policy advisor. He too works for a firm with war-related interests.
The Woolseys’ overlapping affiliations are part of a growing pattern in Washington in which individuals play key roles in quasi-governmental organizations advising officials on major policy issues but also are involved with private businesses in related fields.
Such activities generally are not covered by conflict of interest laws or ethics rules. But they underscore an insiders network in which contacts and relationships developed inside the government can meld with individual financial interests.
Suzanne Woolsey, 62, is a former executive with the National Academies, the institution that advises the government on science, engineering and medicine. In October 2000, she was named a trustee of the Institute for Defense Analyses, a nonprofit corporation paid by the government to do research for the Pentagon.
James Woolsey, 62, who headed the CIA from 1993 to 1995, is a member of the Defense Policy Board, an unpaid advisory panel serving Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials. Woolsey is also on CIA and Navy advisory boards and was a founding member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a private advocacy group set up in 2002 at the instigation of the White House to build public support for the war.
He is also a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm that co-sponsored a May 1, 2003, conference on business opportunities in the reconstruction of Iraq. Woolsey was one of the keynote speakers for the event.
Booz Allen is a subcontractor on a $75-million telecommunications project in Iraq. The firm does extensive work for the Defense Department as well. It was recently awarded $14 million in contracts by the Navy. The former CIA director said in an interview that he had not been involved in Booz Allen’s Iraq contracts.
Last month, Woolsey appeared at a Capitol Hill news conference to announce the creation of a group called the Committee of the Present Danger, which he said would try to focus public attention on the threat “to the U.S. and the civilized world from Islamic terrorism.”
Others with war-related overlapping interests include Richard N. Perle and Christopher A. Williams.
Perle, assistant secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, was chairman of the Defense Advisory Board but stepped down from that post and eventually the board itself after questions were raised about possible conflicts between his advisory role and his private business interests.
Christopher A. Williams, a former aide to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), is another Defense Policy Board member. He has registered as a lobbyist for Boeing and other defense contractors.
In Suzanne Woolsey’s case, during the U.S.-led attack on Iraq, the Institute for Defense Analyses provided senior Pentagon officials with assessments of the operation.
Personnel from the institute formed part of an 18-member civilian analysis team working from the Joint Warfighting Center in Virginia.
The operation was described in a June 3, 2003, briefing by Army Brig.Gen. Robert W. Cone. “This team did business within the Centcom headquarters on a daily basis by observing meeting and planning sessions, attending command updates, watching key decisions being made, watching problems being solved and generally being provided unrestricted access to the business of the conduct of this war,” Cone said, according to a transcript of the session.
Tax records show Suzanne Woolsey was paid $11,500 in trustee fees for serving on the Institute for Defense Analyses board last year.
A spokesman for Fluor declined to discuss why she had been invited to become a director or what role if any she played in the company’s Iraq contracts. Fluor pays its outside directors $40,000 a year, plus stock options and additional fees for attending meetings, according to Securities and Exchange Commission records and the Fluor spokesman.
At the National Academies, Suzanne Woolsey served as chief operating officer from 1993 to 2000 and as chief communications officer from 2000 to 2003. She also is a former newspaper editorial writer and holds degrees in psychology.
Her appointment to Fluor’s board came in late January 2004, while Fluor and its joint venture partner, AMEC, were competing for two federal contracts to do reconstruction work in Iraq.
A little over a month after her appointment, Fluor and AMEC got both contracts, with a combined value of $1.6 billion.
Records show Fluor’s stock has risen steadily since the war began; it has a price of about $42 a share, up from about $30 a share in March of 2003.
According to reports filed with the SEC, Woolsey owns 1,500 shares of Fluor stock and could gain an additional 800 shares under a deferred compensation program.
In a Jan. 27 news release announcing Woolsey’s appointment to Fluor’s board, the company noted that she was a trustee for the Institute for Defense Analyses. Fluor’s chairman and chief executive, Alan L. Boeckmann, said, “Sue’s expertise in and passion for government policy, private industry and science will be important enhancements to our board.”
Earlier, Fluor had won two other government contracts for reconstruction work in Iraq. These contracts had a potential value of more than $1.5 billion over the next five years, according to company spokesman Jerry Holloway. They covered a range of assignments including power generation, construction of a U.S. military camp and a subcontract to renovate an Iraqi military facility.
Holloway said all the contracts -- the first one dates to April of last year -- were awarded on a competitive basis. He noted that many of Fluor’s contracts were awarded before Woolsey’s appointment.
Holloway said the actual amount paid to Fluor under its Iraq contracts may never reach the company’s potential $2.5-billion share; the ultimate amount will depend on the individual work orders issued to the company by federal agencies.
Still, Fluor considered the Iraq contracts an important element in its financial performance. In a recent SEC filing, the company reported that its revenue for the first quarter of the current fiscal year from work in Iraq totaled “approximately $190 million. There was no work in Iraq in the comparable period in 2003.”
The quarterly report concluded that increased profits in the first quarter were primarily due to work in Iraq along with the purchase of a new company.
According to other filings with the SEC, Suzanne Woolsey is also affiliated with other firms, including the Paladin Capital Group, a Washington venture capital firm in which her husband is a partner.
Suzanne Woolsey did not respond to messages left for her at Paladin and at Fluor.