Defense Department official Arthur Money was chosen last year and formally nominated earlier this year to be assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, only to face a hold on his nomination because of a fight between senators and the Pentagon over security locks for defense contractors.
At issue is whether Defense should pay for its contractors to retrofit their safes and other containers that hold classified documents--as the Pentagon has done with its own safes--with a special electronic lock. The department did not spend $4.8 million in the fiscal 1999 budget for the contractors' locks and is resisting congressional efforts to appropriate even more for the effort.
At least one senator is owning up to blocking Money's confirmation--Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), whose state happens to be home to Mas-Hamilton Group Inc., the manufacturer of the only lock that meets DOD security requirements. A spokesman for Bunning says the senator's "first and foremost concern is national security."
Bunning's spokesman and J.D. Hamilton, chief executive of Mas-Hamilton, say that the appearance of "pork" led them to get lawmakers from other states involved. And it was behind Hamilton's hiring of Douglas Feith, a Washington lawyer with a national security reputation. "I hired Doug because I felt I needed someone on staff who understands national security," said Hamilton, who's held 25 briefings for administration officials on his lock. "People just take the pork brush and [then they] don't have to pay attention to what you're saying. . . . Of course it's important to us as a company, but I really believe it's right."
"This is clearly a national security problem that has engaged people of both parties and in and out of the company's home state," added Feith, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for negotiations policy and a special counsel to the assistant secretary for international security policy during the Reagan administration.
Other lobby shops that have worked on behalf of Mas-Hamilton include Grizzle Co. and Robinson International.
Hamilton also hopes that the support of Sens. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) and Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, would help negate any pork-barrel taint. Shelby and Kerrey wrote Money in May urging his support of the contractor program, saying, "Contractors handle extremely sensitive information, and that information should be protected to the best of our abilities."
Money replied on June 13 that he appreciated and shared their concerns, adding, "We must, however, weigh all of the security needs of the Department and make decisions about where to invest limited resources to the best advantage."
He said the Pentagon's top priority is securing computerized information. He noted that the "greatest threat to our national secrets is the 'trusted' insider," with authorized access to safes.
A group of seven senators--Bunning, Shelby, Kerrey, Charles S. Robb (D-Va.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)--also wrote to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen on Sept. 9 for support.
"As recent events have unfortunately shown, our government's record for protecting the nation's secrets has been highly deficient," they wrote. "Given this situation, we are concerned as to why DOD officials continue to adamantly resist lock upgrades, especially when Congress has expressed strong support."
Some contractors are also resisting the effort. Under federal regulations, all locks that they purchased since March 10, 1992, must meet federal specifications--the Mas-Hamilton lock, for now--but if they have prior substandard locks, they could get federal assistance for other supplemental security efforts, such as guards, which they would want anyway.
For now, Money is serving as the "senior civilian official" in the office.
Queen Noor's Mission to the Hill
Queen Noor, widow of Jordan's King Hussein, is coming to Capitol Hill next week to discuss the need for a comprehensive approach to helping survivors of land mines.
She will address a members-only luncheon hosted by the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues on Tuesday and make personal calls on congressional leaders.
Her congressional visits are being coordinated by the D.C. law firm Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn. Douglas P. McCormack, an Arent Fox lawyer and government relations director, says the firm is working on behalf of the Landmine Survivors Network, of which Noor is the honorary chair. LSN was founded by land mine survivors four years ago to link victims of antipersonnel mines with medical care, peer support and employment.
Chief Lobbyist at Holland & Knight
Richard M. Gold, a partner at Holland & Knight, takes over as the law firm's chief lobbyist. He's the new practice area leader for the firm's Public Law Group in Washington. He previously was a special assistant to EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner and an aide to former senator Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.).
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