The Pentagon's inspector general will be leaving his post Sept. 9 to take a top job at the parent company for Blackwater USA, one of the largest private security firms in Iraq, the Defense Department said yesterday.
Joseph E. Schmitz has been the IG since March 2002, heading an office of 1,250 military and civilian officers and employees, with a mandate to prevent waste, fraud and abuse in the Pentagon. Its work included an extensive review of a controversial plan for leasing Boeing Co. jets as Air Force tankers. A top Pentagon procurement officer and a Boeing official went to prison in that case.
Schmitz's new job will be chief operating officer and general counsel for the Prince Group, a firm that's divided between Michigan-based Prince Manufacturing and North Carolina-based Blackwater.
Blackwater, founded in 1997, came to prominence after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 when the company was selected to provide personal security for L. Paul Bremer, who ran the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. Last year, four of the company's employees were shot and killed in Fallujah and their bodies were strung up from a bridge. Family members of the victims have sued the company, alleging negligence. Paul Behrends, a spokesman for Blackwater, said he is unaware of Schmitz's office undertaking any investigations of the company. "Joe has run the process of transitioning from the government to the private sector through the appropriate channels. There's no conflict of interest," he said.
But Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, said, "The inspector general is a standard-bearer for ethics and integrity for the Pentagon. To see a person who has been holding that position cash in on his public service and go work for one of their contractors is tremendously disappointing," she said. Schmitz will be based in McLean for Prince.