Senator takes aim at acquisition revolving door

Lawmakers next week may take up a proposal that would place new limits on where federal procurement officials can work after they leave government.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has crafted an amendment to the 2005 Defense authorization bill that would broaden the reach of the Procurement Integrity Act, a law restricting the relationship between federal contracting officers and companies bidding on government projects. Senators will resume debate on the Defense bill next week.

Under current procurement law, contracting officers must wait at least a year before leaving the government to work for a company to which they've awarded a contract worth more than $10 million. Byrd's language would extend the waiting period to two years.

The amendment also expands the ethics law to procurement policymakers, including political appointees, members of the Senior Executive Service and military officials. Before leaving the government, covered employees would need to file with the Office of Government Ethics a list of projects and policies on which they worked.

A spate of scandals uncovered in the late 1980s led to a strengthening of procurement ethics rules. But alleged breaches by former Air Force procurement executive Darleen Druyun attracted renewed attention to the issue. Druyun pleaded guilty earlier this year to covering up negotiations with Boeing about a future job while she was overseeing a potential multibillion-dollar deal for the Air Force to lease tanker aircraft from the contractor.

"When such a revolving door continues to turn, year after year, creating a perception of public servants -- exaggerated or not -- greedily trying to cash in on their knowledge of the procurement system, the Congress has a responsibility to address the laws of ethics," Byrd said.

Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., has said that current ethics rules are "laughable" and that Druyun's case has served to spotlight a problem that arises every day in government. "I don't think it would hurt to tighten the rules, and if we do it right it might prevent people from being corrupted," Fitzgerald said.

Agency officials, however, have argued against tightening the rules, fearing that such a move would make it difficult to recruit and retain procurement personnel and to do business with contractors. "The rules we have today have been tried and tested," said David Drabkin, deputy associate administrator for acquisition policy at the General Services Administration. He called Druyun's situation an "aberration" that should not lead to more regulation.

Larry Farrell, president of the National Defense Industrial Association, said the government benefits when companies hire former federal managers and executives. "It's good to have been on both sides because then you know how the system really works and can improve it," he said.

But the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog organization, has called for increased restrictions on where former federal employees can work. "The revolving door has become such a part of federal contracting in recent years that frequently it makes it difficult to determine where the government stops and the private sector begins," the group stated in a recent report.

Byrd's proposal is "a great step in closing some revolving door loopholes," said Scott Amey, general counsel at POGO. He said that most civil servants do not use their jobs as steppingstones to higher-paying positions in the private sector, and that it demoralizes them when they see colleagues who do.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.