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Report Finds Weaknesses In Pentagon Ethics Rules

By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 30, 2005; Page E01

The Government Accountability Office reported yesterday that the Pentagon has not assessed the effectiveness of its ethics program or measured whether contractors have proper safeguards in place.

Responsibility for the department's ethics training has been delegated to 2,000 ethics counselors, many of whom could not document that employees under their watch had received required annual ethics training, the report said. It also found that neither of the two defense agencies charged with overseeing contractors had checked their rules for hiring former government officials.

The Pentagon acquisition and ethics processes have been under scrutiny since Darleen A. Druyun, a high-ranking Air Force procurement official, admitted giving preferential treatment to Boeing Co. for years before accepting a job with the firm. After the revelation, the U.S. attorney in Alexandria established a procurement fraud task force, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has called for a broad review of the Pentagon procurement system.

In an investigation after Druyun's guilty plea to criminal charges last fall, the GAO noted that one retired Air Force brigadier general said Air Force lawyers told him "not to worry about" restrictions on his employment after he had been out of government for a year. The general also was quoted as saying that the lawyers told him they had cited other restrictions only to "cover their butt."

Yesterday's report also found that Pentagon ethics officials do not track reports of potential misconduct, so the Defense Department "has no assurances that ethics-related laws and regulations are properly followed and that appropriate administrative or disciplinary action is taken."

The Pentagon inspector general's office "told us that anecdotal evidence indicates post-government employment misconduct is a problem, but DOD has no basis for assessing the severity," the GAO said. "In an environment where the risk of ethical misconduct can be costly, DOD is missing opportunities to raise the level of confidence that its safeguards protect the public trust."

One large Pentagon contractor, unidentified in the report, told GAO that an internal evaluation of its hiring practices found the company "relied excessively" on workers monitoring their own compliance with post-government employment restrictions.

The Pentagon largely agreed with the GAO's overall assessment but said it would not accept responsibility for monitoring contractors' ethics programs. The Pentagon "intends to call upon companies throughout the defense industry to reexamine their ethics programs and share best practices," Daniel J. Dell'Orto, deputy Defense Department general counsel, said in an agency response attached to the report.

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