Yesteday, Noah Schactman linked to a Baltimore Sun article from Sunday on the close-knit ties between the National Security Agency and government contractor Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). The ties are so tight, SAIC has earned the name "NSA West" inside the intelligence community, the article says.
SAIC's board of directors reads like a page out of a Who's Who of the intelligence and defense establishment: "Among those who have served on SAIC's board of directors are former NSA Director Bobby Ray Inman; former CIA Directors John M. Deutch and Robert M. Gates; and former Defense Secretaries Melvin R. Laird and William J. Perry."
The article uses the example of Trailblazer to illustrate the swinging revolving door between the highly secretive spy agency at the heart of the warrantless domestic spying scandal and one of its corporate wings:
William B. Black Jr. retired from his position in the elite senior cryptologic executive service at the NSA in 1997 to take a job as assistant vice president at SAIC.
Three years later, NSA Director Michael V. Hayden called Black back to the spy agency. By 2002, Black was overseeing NSA's Trailblazer project, with SAIC as its prime contractor.
Two other top NSA managers who worked on Trailblazer - Hal Smith and Sam Visner - also left the spy agency for jobs at SAIC.
One problem with the article is that it only suggests that the revolving door could lead to impropriety, it never explicitly says that this is a possibility. However, quotes from defenders of the revolving door are quite prominent and straightforwardly say that government benefits from contractors who know how to navigate the process.
POGO's approach is that we should slam the revolving door shut for a while. We don't care if that turns off some prospective government officials -- we don't want the people who are looking at public service as a stepping stone to the private sector anyway.