Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Salamander Bill Must Advance

Time again to bring up a Bill I would dearly love to see in Congress. 

Let me set the table first.

- In my lifetime, I've seen when the military was not held in high regard professionally. In the 80s, I caught the tail end of the "be careful when wearing your NROTC uniform around campus" phase. 

We should nurture today's climate.

- In popular culture, there is a disconnect between some of the cartoon character senior officers - corrupt, grasping, ego-maniacal, etc - and what people see day to day in their work; good people in hard jobs doing the best they can.

We need to police our bad actors who play in to that stereotype. 

- The US military spends an ungodly amount of treasure in men and material. When you have all that money sloshing around in often esoteric areas, the usual rent-seekers, thieves, and other parasitic characters will always be there looking to dip their beaks.

Thick and robust firewalls need to be in place.

- The uniformed military leadership should always see itself as the customer of the defense industry - not part of that. We imperfectly play that role.

Prevent perverse incentives by our weaker characters.

- Retired General Officers and Flag Officers (GOFO) are provided with an amazing retirement package - almost unequaled in security and amount by their peers. Look it up.

No retired GOFO can plead poverty.

- When the government makes the decision to spend tens to hundreds of billions of dollars on defense, the taxpayer should have confidence that the best decision was made for the best reasons. Anything that could throw a shadow on that needs to be carefully addressed.


- The revolving door between the civilian sector and industry - especially journalism and financial services - is well known ... and is a growing problem with retired military members.

Do not accept the unacceptable as inevitable.

We need to act in line with what we like to tell others we are. 

Why does the military sector employ so many retired GOFO? Simple; their connections and their perceived integrity ... but mostly their connections. They are also used as a shield against criticism.

I know a lot of retired GOFO who followed a long American tradition of going in to public service or the civilian sector outside the areas they worked on while in the military.

...and then there are the others.

For them, I have long supported the SALAMANDER BILL;
For a period of no less than five years from their effective date of retirement, General Officers and Flag Officers shall not be employed by, be a independent or subcontractor to, an officer of, or a member of a board of directors - compensated or not - with any publicly of privately held company that does business with the Department of Defense.
That's the rough draft - Hill staffers can gussy it up as needed.

Why? If for no reason than to buttress the public trust of the military from situations outlined by Mandy Smithberger at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) - yes, POGO;
This year’s Department of Defense budget request included six fewer F-35 Joint Strike Fighters than planned, setting off a firestorm of protests from the program’s boosters. Part of that pushback, organized by the Congressional F-35 Caucus, was a letter in support of the program signed by 128 retired senior military officers. The letter failed to disclose that 50 of the signatories stand to benefit if Congress authorizes more F-35 purchases because of their actual or potential personal or financial ties to the program.
Some of the signatories to the letter are in the Project On Government Oversight’s Pentagon Revolving Door Database, and others would likely appear in the Defense Department’s own ethics database—though we have no way of knowing, because that database has not been made available to the public. Information about all of these former officials’ connections to defense contractors should be publicly available: taxpayers and lawmakers need to know who’s influencing spending decisions and what interests they’re representing.
While the disclosure should absolutely be public - and shame on us for allowing it not to be - I stand it is not enough.

Also worth your time is Mandy's NOV18 article on the revolving door at The Pentagon.

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