Corrupt to its very core–but I am always amazed every time a rock is turned over, there they are–hands greased and pockets full.
Countless officials in Washington have traveled a familiar path through the revolving door, moving from the private sector to the government and back again. Ashton Carter, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, is part of an elite crowd that has managed to keep a foot in both worlds at the same time.
Several reports have mentioned Carter’s work as a consultant to the defense industry between stints as a full-time official at the Department of Defense (DoD). But the Project On Government Oversight has found that Carter’s role, like that of many other members of Washington’s defense policy establishment, went deeper. While working in the private sector, he has held plum positions on government advisory boards that called for reforms with potential ramifications for his defense industry clients and other companies that receive DoD dollars.
Carter is hardly alone. Federal ethics laws allow scores of advisers at the Pentagon and other agencies to serve in these influential positions while keeping close ties to big businesses overseen by the government. Carter’s nomination serves to illustrate how the government allows members of the policy establishment to straddle both sides, and how it’s become a fixture of the military-industrial-congressional complex.
Carter’s dual roles as government and private adviser have overlapped the most in missile defense and U.S. space policy. These are programs with significant taxpayer dollars at stake: the federal government spends about $8 billion a year on missile defense alone. By virtue of his service on advisory panels, Carter has been in a position to influence government policies and gain an inside perspective on future programs while carrying on his outside roles related to missile defense.