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Mon, Mar 31, 2003 - Page 12 News List

Rumsfeld's advisors are Pentagon contractors


Members of a panel that advises Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld work for companies that do business with the Pentagon, including World Airways Inc, which flies troops to the Persian Gulf, and Alliant Techsystems Inc, the biggest maker of ammunition for US forces.

Software maker Symantec Corp, aviation-services company AAR Corp and weapons builder Metal Storm Ltd are other defense contractors with directors who serve on the panel, the Defense Policy Board. At least eight members of the 30-person board have such ties, according to Securities and Exchange Commission and other filings.

They include retired Navy admirals William Owens and David Jeremiah, former Central Intelligence Agency director James Woolsey, former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, retired Air Force General Ronald Fogleman, defense consultant Barry Blechman and Fred Ikle, former undersecretary of defense for policy.

In addition, Richard Perle, a former defense official who resigned as chairman of the policy board on Thursday amid conflict-of-interest questions, remains on the board.

Board members disclose their business affiliations to the Pentagon in reports that the agency keeps secret. Critics say the secrecy and dual roles raise the issue of whether board members may render advice that benefits their companies.

"It's the problem of a person serving two masters," said Monroe H. Freedman, an ethics professor at Hofstra University Law School. "It certainly should not be permitted."

The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington group that monitors government ethics issues, yesterday said policy board members have ties to companies that received more than US$72 billion in defense contracts in 2001 and last year.

All of Donald's men

* World Airways, Symantec, Alliant Techsystems, AAR and Metal Storm advise the US Defense Secretary.

* Board members disclose their business affiliations to the Pentagon in reports that the agency keeps secret.

The center also named retired Marine Corps General Jack Sheehan, who works for Bechtel Group Inc, which is bidding for contracts to rebuild Iraq after the war; former defense secretary Harold Brown, a trustee at the Rand Corp, a nonprofit research institute that does work for the Defense Department; and Chris Williams, a defense company lobbyist for Johnston & Associates.

Defense Policy Board members are considered special government employees subject to ethical rules that forbid using public office for private gain. In classified briefings, the members provide ``independent, informed advice'' on strategic planning, weapon systems and foreign policy, its charter says. The board has met six times in the last year.

Owens, who is a former vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview that the unpaid board doesn't discuss business or US policies that may benefit companies.

"I can't remember a single issue we discussed where a company had something to gain," Owens said.

Owens sits on the boards of seven public companies that have defense contracts. These include Cray Inc, whose computers are used to simulate nuclear explosions, and Microvision Inc, which makes optical scanners that let pilots read data on helmet visors.

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