Pentagon investigating former officials working for contractors

Probe aims to determine if procurement executives violated federal conflict-of-interest laws.

The Defense Department is investigating a pool of former senior military and civilian Defense managers now working for government contractors for possible criminal violations of federal conflict-of-interest rules, according to law enforcement officials.

"Certain names popped up. We do have a pool of candidates we are working from," says Joseph McMillan, special agent in charge of the mid-Atlantic field office of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, who is heading the investigation.

Federal law sharply restricts how civil servants may negotiate jobs with future employers who have government contracts. Critics have charged that despite such "revolving door" regulations, it's still too easy for managers and executives to arrange lucrative jobs with contractors.

McMillan declined to say how many former officials were under investigation, but noted that most worked in the acquisition field. He said it was too early to tell how long the probes would last or whether any charges would be filed, saying that investigators are still requesting documents from contractors that have hired former feds.

DCIS launched its review, known as the Senior Official Project, eight months ago. It covers former civilian and military managers who negotiated and managed large contracts at the Pentagon after 2001 and then went to work in the defense industry. The project was a result of the admission by former Air Force acquisition official Darleen Druyun admission that she favored Boeing in contract negotiations in exchange for jobs for herself and family members.

Paul McNulty, U.S. district attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, cited the DCIS review as example of the work his newly formed task force, known as the Procurement Fraud Working Group, is doing. He says he'd like non-Defense agencies to conduct similar reviews. "The Druyun case certainly sensitized us to the issue," said McMillan. The review only goes back to 2001 because there is a five-year statute of limitations for prosecuting federal conflict-of-interest violations. McMillan says DCIS is relying on data-mining technology to review contracts for names of former officials who might have negotiated or managed contracts with their future employers. He stresses that Defense managers can recuse themselves from contracts involving firms they are seeking employment with, and then legally accept positions with the companies "Just because you leave government and go to a contractor," said McMillan, "does not mean we are going to open a case on you."