By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
The head of a Pentagon-funded research organization has resigned after the group's trustees concluded that his simultaneous service on the boards of two defense contractors was contrary to its conflict-of-interest policies.
Asked to resign from the corporate boards, retired Adm. Dennis C. Blair chose instead to leave his positions as president and trustee of the Institute for Defense Analyses, a nonprofit company that has long provided the Defense Department with independent technical advice on large weapons systems.
The resignation followed controversy in July over Blair's involvement in the drafting of a report by the institute last year on the F-22 Raptor, a fighter jet that has experienced a series of cost overruns and technical problems. Blair was then on the board of EDO Corp., an F-22 subcontractor, and his dual roles provoked criticism by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Blair's resignation was announced in a memo circulated to the institute's 800 employees Monday by John M. Palms, a former president of the University of South Carolina who is chairman of the IDA's board of trustees. Palms said, without naming the companies, that the trustees knew about Blair's membership on the boards of EDO and Tyco International Ltd. at the time he was hired in 2003.
"We did not require that he resign those memberships because, like Admiral Blair, we did not believe that either company's interests would be impacted by IDA's work," Palms wrote in the memo. "With the passage of time, it became clear that Admiral Blair's continuing participation on those boards created the appearance of a conflict of interests."
An IDA official said Palms was referring to news media and congressional attention surrounding Blair's membership on the EDO board, which Blair said on July 26 he would give up. Two days earlier, he had said in an interview that he saw no conflict and was unaware of any policy barring such a tie.
Blair's involvement in the IDA's work on the F-22 report remains the subject of a probe by the Defense Department's office of inspector general initiated at the request of Warner and McCain.