January 25, 2013
A new Defense Department inspector general report is destined for obscurity. Its contents are unlikely to draw news coverage and will not be discussed at the highest levels of the department -- or anywhere else, for that matter.
Is there a cover-up at work here? Does this report reveal something so sinister that shadowy forces will ensure it never sees the light of day? Hardly. In fact, the reason for the report's pre-ordained obscurity lies in its title: "Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Ethics Program Met Federal Government Standards."
You read that right. Alert the media: After an extensive investigation, IG auditors concluded that a federal agency did something right. "The DARPA ethics policies and program implementation were consistent with federal government conflict-of-interest mitigation standards, and the DARPA personnel we selected for review were properly trained and followed DARPA policies," the IG reported."In the last three years, DARPA officials issued standard ethics guidance and operating procedures that implemented ethics laws and regulations."
Ahh, but what about allegations that came in via an IG hotline about an improper revolving door between DARPA and contractor BAE Systems? It turns out there was a notable non-scandal there, too: "We determined that the program management and contract award process participation of the DARPA employees who formerly worked for BAE Systems or its subsidiary, AlphaTech (BAE/AlphaTech), did not create a conflict-of-interest between the two entities. In addition, DARPA did not award BAE Systems contracts as a result of undue influence from former BAE employees in DARPA’s Information Innovation Office."
You can be sure that if this report found evidence of conflicts of interest, undue influence, or even a failure to train employees and follow established procedures, you'd be hearing about it. And make no mistake: Staying on top of myriad federal ethics requirements is no mean feat. So before this report assumes its destined position on a dusty bookshelf, it's worth taking note of it. Because the audits and investigations showing that an agency did something right are the ones that generally attract no attention whatsoever.
January 25, 2013