That role created controversy last year after the New York Times and the New Yorker magazine reported on Perle's activities as a consultant to Loral Space and Communications Ltd. and Global Crossing Ltd., which had matters pending with the government, and as a partner in a venture capital firm pursuing investments in homeland security technology.
An investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general concluded last fall that Perle had not violated ethics rules, in part because certain restrictions did not apply to him as chairman of the Defense Policy Board and in part because he "did not mention or invoke" his unpaid position when he contacted the State Department on behalf of a company.
Perle's Business Ventures: A look at Richard N. Perle's government and public policy-related jobs and how they relate to his business activities.
Perle's Path: Richard N. Perle has translated his Pentagon connections, first established when he served as an assistant defense secretary in the Reagan administration, into an array of corporate directorships and consulting arrangements.
He gave up the chairmanship in March 2003, saying he did not want the controversy surrounding him to become a distraction for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. In February, he resigned from the board itself, saying that he did not want his strong views on key issue such as terrorism to become a factor in this year's presidential campaign.
"I think I've made a successful transition from public policy to the private sector, and the evidence of that is the readiness of a number of companies to invite me to join their board or assist them in other ways, and in many cases companies that have nothing to do with the government," Perle said. "I'm interested in interesting businesses, not in mundane ones, and of course in my business activity I'm driven by the necessity to provide for my family."
Tour at Defense
"It's well known that you can peddle your influence after you leave the government for a certain number of years," William Happer, a Princeton University physicist and former Energy Department official, who serves with Perle on the strategic advisory council of USEC Inc., a uranium-enrichment company, said in an interview. "It's an old American tradition, and Richard Perle I think is doing it in an honest way. He's one of hundreds and hundreds who do it."
Perle said he did not like Happer's characterization. "I don't believe that anybody has hired me for connections," he said. "Nothing is about connections," he said. "I do not ask the people I know to do things for me."
Later in the interview, however, he confirmed that he had contacted ambassadors from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the 1990s on behalf of a company for which he was both a director and a sales consultant, seeking to sell security systems in the Middle East. "Was that a result of my influence? Yeah, it was. It was a result of the fact that they, the people I went to, knew me so they took my phone call," Perle said.
Perle, who started his career in Washington as an aide to Sen. Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson (D-Wash.), began applying his government experience to business soon after he left full-time employment at the Pentagon in 1987.
As assistant secretary of Defense for international security policy, Perle advocated increased U.S. assistance to Turkey. He chaired a U.S.-Turkey high-level defense group.
FMC Corp., a U.S. defense contractor, was working on a deal to sell armored personnel carriers to the Turkish government and enlisted Perle's help, former executives said. Perle's "main asset to us was his relationship with the Turkish government," Robert H. Malott, former chairman and chief executive of FMC, said in an interview. He said a U.S. ambassador to Turkey told him that the Turks regarded Perle "as a demigod."
A $1.1 billion deal, finalized in 1989, called for FMC and a Turkish partner to sell Turkey about 1,700 armored vehicles. Perle became a member of the board of directors of FNSS Defense Systems Inc. , the joint venture FMC set up to manufacture the vehicles in Turkey.
Perle said FMC's contract to sell Turkey the armored vehicles "was essentially done" when he got involved. He said he thought there were "occasions" when he talked about the venture with Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Ozal, whom he described as a "good friend."
Around the same time, Perle urged Turkish officials to establish a lobbying shop to advance the country's interests in Washington, he told the Wall Street Journal in a letter in 1989. Though he did not personally register as a lobbyist for Turkey, he became a paid consultant to the lobbying firm, International Advisers Inc., which was led by Douglas J. Feith, who worked under Perle in the Reagan administration and is now an undersecretary of defense. Perle received $255,000 from the firm from early 1989 through early 1994, according to lobbying records.
It was during that early period in the private world that Perle began a longtime relationship with Morgan Crucible Co. PLC, an English maker of industrial ceramics. He met company officials after speaking at a London conference hosted by an investment bank , he recalled, and they asked him to join the board. He served for 15 years before leaving last June, a period in which the company found itself in legal trouble.