Ethics law skipped in Army mentoring hires

Dec. 8, 2009 at 12:27 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army took advantage of a loophole to award profitable contracts to retired generals for a mentoring program, a USA Today study shows.

The Army hired retired Gens. John Vines and Dan McNeill to advise commanders as part of a "senior mentor" program run by defense contractor Northrup Grumman, ignoring a federal ethics law barring recently retired senior employees from representing a company to their former agency for a year, the newspaper reported Tuesday. The requirement is known as a cooling-off period.

Rather than hire Vines and McNeill as defense company subcontractors, as it does for nearly two dozen other Army mentors, service personnel contracted directly with McNeill and Vines, public records indicated. Records also indicated McNeill received his contract after the Army wrote bid solicitations applicable to him and only a few other retired generals while Vines received contracts without competition.

"This flagrantly violates the spirit of the revolving-door rules," said Danielle Bryan, executive director of the non-partisan Project on Government Oversight. "What the Army did instead is create a new door so they could walk right through."

The Army paid McNeill $281,625 from December 2008 through August 2009, records show. In mid-2007, records show, the Army awarded three contracts in mid-2007 worth $226,285 to Vines, who retired that January.

Army spokesman Gary Tallman said the arrangements were legal and don't create "clever loopholes."

McNeill and Vines are beyond their cooling off periods and the Army has returned to its normal procedures and retained them as Northrop subcontractors.

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