Ethics rule could slow DOD's revolving employment door

DOD requires written ethics approval for senior officials, who have worked personally and had major decision-making authority on a DOD contract.

Defense Department employees who have worked on large procurements must get a written opinion from an ethics officer before taking a job with a defense contractor, according to a new rule.

The approval is required for senior officials, who have worked personally and had major decision-making authority on a DOD acquisition worth more than $10 million. It also applies to officials who have held key acquisition positions at DOD, the rule states.

A defense contractor is also restricted from paying such a DOD official, who left DOD less than two years ago, without first determining that the official has received or appropriately requested a post-employment ethics opinion, the rule states.

The new rule, which amends the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), goes into effect today.

The rule is based on a provision in the fiscal 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.

In a 2008 report, the Government Accountability Office said that 52 contractors in 2006 employed 2,435 former DOD senior officials, such as generals and admirals, and acquisition officials, such as contracting officers. Based on employment data gathered from contractors, GAO also estimated that at least 422 former officials could have worked on defense contracts related to their former agencies and at least nine officials could have worked on the same contracts that they had overseen or made important decisions about while at DOD, according to the report. However, GAO said many of the contractors had policies to comply post-DOD employment rules.

In another rule, DOD added a new part to the DFARS, dealing with whistleblower protections for defense contractor employees who tell DOD about waste and abuses. The rule expands the types of information that the protections apply to and the categories of federal officials to whom the information may be disclosed without reprisal.

The rule also becomes effective today.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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