Four key problem areas in Pentagon contracting that are ripe for continued story development.
1. Lack of competition. Sweetheart deals are all too common in defense spending, whether because of inside connections or outright corruption. Consolidation in the defense industry also means that most government contracts go to just a handful of companies.
- Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a Republican from California, was convicted in 2005 after pleading guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion for receiving nearly $2.4 million dollars in bribes from defense contractors.
- Former Rep. John Murtha, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, was caught up in two separate corruption controversies during his time in Congress. In the 1980’s he was recorded as considering a future acceptance of a $50,000 bribe for political favors and later he helped direct $137 million in earmarks to defense contractors.
2. Revolving Door. Many Beltway contracting and consulting firms are staffed by former military brass who bring to the job fat Rolodexes and heavy reputations.
- A former United States Air Force civilian official and Boeing Executive named Darleen Druyun was involved in corruption controversies involving a plan to speed up payments from the U.S. Air Force to McDonnell Douglas and a flawed leasing agreement that would charge the U.S. government highly exaggerated prices for tankers.
- A Boston Globe December 2010 series tracked flag officers from retirement through their transition into the private sector, and found that many were lining up business before they even left the Pentagon.
3. Contractors performing government tasks. Contractors are prohibited by law from performing “inherently governmental functions” such as overseeing other contractors, but the definition of such functions is fuzzy.
- The Washington Post series Top Secret America found that hundreds of thousands of contractors hold top-secret security clearances.
4. Severe cost overruns. A 2007 Government Accountability Office report found that major weapons programs had incurred $300 billion in cost overruns. This is due primarily to:
- Underbidding by contractors
- Changing requirements by government
- Increasing complexity of systems