McAleese: Working within the rules

Underlying any contract is the fundamental understanding that all actions must have compelling cases for national security and for contractors' shareholders.

Nearly all uniformed and civilian government employees, along with their contractor counterparts, have made personal and professional sacrifices to benefit the nation's long-term national security. It would be absurd to suggest that government employees from any level are driven by anything other than the strong desire to support U.S. national security.

However, procurement improprieties can result in the cancellation of tainted contracts, civil claims against contractors and even criminal charges. Thus, DOD information technology programs need to be transparent and officials must be personally accountable. A few key examples include:

Contractors and government employees must avoid even the appearance of impropriety to protect vital weapons or IT programs from being delayed or canceled. The general test is whether a reasonable person in possession of the relevant facts would see anything wrong or improper in the conduct. Also, a criminal statute prohibits government employees from participating personally and substantially in any government matter that may affect the employees' financial interests or those imputed to them.

Knowing misuse of competitor trade secrets or improper access to government source selection information is unequivocally prohibited.

As with a large weapon system, the creation of an enterprise architecture is difficult. Like it or not, developing common architectures that meet evolving customer requirements necessitates that vendors and customers have ample communications. This is particularly true when a project requires salvaging existing operational data from legacy systems.

Although statutes and regulations often change, as long as government and contractor employees always ensure that there is a compelling national security case and a compelling business case, the public will have confidence that every dollar appropriated is spent in support of our warfighters and meeting our domestic priorities.

McAleese is the principal of McAleese & Associates, a government contracting and national security law firm in McLean, Va. This is the first of a two-part commentary.

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