Where the Revolving Door Spins Fastest

June 3rd, 2008 by Phil Mattera

The movement of federal officials through the revolving door into lucrative private-sector positions is a well-known story, but a new report by the Government Accountability Office provides some quantification of the phenomenon and names companies that are most frequently involved.

GAO focused its research on the Defense Department, which seems hell-bent on outsourcing as many of its functions as possible, thereby intensifying the desire of contractors to hire ex-officials with the right contacts. The agency found that in 2006, 52 major contractors were employing a total of 86,181 individuals who had left military or civilian positions with DOD since 2001.

Special attention was paid to those individuals whose former positions made them subject to the limited restrictions on post-government activity that exist in federal law. GAO found that, as of 2006, the 52 companies employed “2,435 former DOD senior and acquisition officials who had previously served as generals, admirals, senior executives, program managers, contracting officers, or in other acquisition positions” to which the rules apply.

Not surprisingly, GAO found that the companies employing the largest number of former DOD senior and acquisition officials are the top military contractors, especially the following seven:

  • – Science Applications Intl. Corp. (263 former key officials employed)
  • – Northrop Grumman (260)
  • – Booz Allen Hamilton (243)
  • – L-3 Communications (241)
  • – Lockheed Martin (221)
  • – General Dynamics (207)
  • – Raytheon (146)

(Booz Allen has announced it is selling its federal business.)

Together, these seven employed 1,581 former key DOD officials, or 65 percent of the total found by GAO. The report notes that the numbers reported to GAO by the contractors themselves substantially understated  the former DOD officials on their payrolls. GAO got more accurate figures by checking confidential Internal Revenue Service data.

GAO also helpfully notes that the seven top employers of former officials received DOD contract awards worth some $61 billion in fiscal year 2005. With that amount of money at stake, it is no wonder that the companies like to invest in the revolving door.

For an overview of revolving-door issues, see the 2005 report of the Revolving Door Working Group (in which yours truly wrote the section on the reverse revolving door—the movement of lobbyists and corporate executives from the private sector to public positions). Also see the revolving-door section of the Open Secrets database.

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