Saturday, October 16, 2010

Military corruption: Another argument for divided government

After pressure from two key senators, the Pentagon has reversed course and will require that the retired generals and admirals it hires as consultants file public, not confidential, financial disclosure statements, according to letters from Congress and the Defense Department.

Senators Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman and ranking member on the Armed Services Committee, told the Pentagon that "senior mentors exercise a level of . . . influence" that demands public disclosure. They wrote that if the Pentagon resisted, they would propose legislation mandating it.

. . . "Anybody who consults with the Pentagon about the right way to conduct its programs needs to disclose potential conflicts of interest," Andrews said.

. . . A USA Today investigation last year found that mentors made up to $440 an hour in taxpayer dollars, many times their pay while in uniform. Mentors advise active-duty officers, take part in war games and aid in military planning. The earnings came on top of military pensions as high as $220,000 a year. At the same time, many mentors held jobs with defense contractors selling products and services to the Pentagon.

In other words, the Obama Defense Department was paying retired officers up to $440 per hour to consult, including to make recommendations as to the use and efficiency of various suppliers and contractors . . . without requiring the disclosure of whether they were also being paid by those suppliers and contractors. It was oversight by a Republican senator which brought this potential for corruption to light.

Unfortunately, both parties in Congress seem to think that loyalty to their team is more important than their Constitutional oversight duties. This is why we need divided government to guarantee aggressive Congressional oversight. It is no coincidence that when we had divided government from 1994 to 2000, America was doing great.

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