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Conflicts of interest in the military-industrial complex

USA Today’s Ken Dilanian, Tom Vanden Brook and Ray Locker reported today on retired military officers being employed as by a company that helps contractors win Pentagon contracts. At the same time, these same retired officers are also being employed by the military to help run war games:

In a marketplace awash in consulting firms that help defense companies sell to the Pentagon, the Durango Group has a unique advantage.

The Colorado-based firm has become a base of operations for retired officers who also are handsomely paid by the military for their advice. No other defense consulting firm employs more “senior mentors” than Durango. Of the 59 former officers who work for Durango, 15 also serve as mentors, a USA TODAY investigation found.

As Durango associates, the retired officers are paid to help private companies win and administer Pentagon contracts. As mentors, the retirees are paid by the military to help run war games, which also gives them access to classified strategies and weapons systems. Durango cites these mentoring assignments on its website as signs of its associates’ unique connections.

In the article, Craig Holman, Public Citizen’s Capitol Hill lobbyist on ethics, lobbying and campaign finance rules, weighs in:

“That is an amazing conflict of interest,” said Craig Holman of the non-partisan watchdog group Public Citizen. “They are working for two masters. Are they pursuing the public interest, or are they pursuing the contractors’ interests? … The conflict of interest law ought to be expanded to cover this.”

There is a tremendous amount of money tied up in the military-industrial complex. It’s high time we did a better job keeping track of how public money is spent — especially if it’s being siphoned into the coffers of those with a financial interest in war.