|Photo of Gen. James Cartwright from USA.gov
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By DANA LIEBELSON
The revolving door that carried former Department of Defense honcho William Lynn III to a well-paying job with an Italian defense contractor keeps on spinning – now Gen. James Cartwright, who retired as the nation’s second-highest ranking military officer in August, is following Lynn into the private sector.
Cartwright is joining the Board of Directors at Raytheon, a major U.S. defense contractor. Earlier in the week, DRS Technologies named Lynn as its chief executive officer. (Coincidently, before Lynn was tapped as deputy defense secretary, he was a top lobbyist for Raytheon.)
“General Cartwright's deep understanding of defense and broad experience in military operations and matters of national security will be of great value to our Board," Raytheon Chairman and CEO William H. Swanson said in a press release.
Well, Cartwright certainly has a deep understanding of defense: He’s a four-star general with 40 years of service in the Marine Corps, including four years as the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But then there’s that sticky “great value to the Board” comment. And that’s where the problem with the well-oiled revolving door that leads from the Pentagon to the defense industry rears its ugly head.
It’s absolutely reasonable to wonder if Cartwright was eyeing a cushy job with Raytheon during his last years of service. Did that influence any decisions he may have made in regards to Raytheon, which receives billions in taxpayer dollars through federal contracts? Even if it didn’t create any conflicts of interest, the appearance that it could have is why the revolving door chips away at the public’s confidence in government.
As POGO pointed out in its 2004 “Politics of Contracting” report, “a contracting system where current and former public servants use their positions for private gain means powerful private corporations can rig the system in their favor.”
Raytheon, like many of the largest federal contractors, has plenty of instances of misconduct on its record – everything from False Claims Act violations to kickbacks and overcharges. It also has a history of hiring Department of Defense insiders such as Cartwright and Lynn, who often go to bat for the company on Capitol Hill, at the White House and in the Pentagon. It’s no coincidence that the biggest contractors, such as Raytheon, rarely suffer lasting consequences for misconduct.
Cartwright is valued by Raytheon because of his knowledge of defense programs and his connections inside the Pentagon and Obama administration. With Raytheon having a stake in more than 4,000 weapons programs, it's certainly paying close attention to looming defense cuts. For Raytheon, Cartwright is joining the board at a very opportune time.
In a Washington Post profile on the general, those close to Cartwright called him a “maverick” who, throughout his career, has been “widely respected for pushing what he thought was right.” As he swings through the revolving door, we can only hope that these good instincts don’t get stuck.
Dana Liebelson is POGO's Beth Daley Impact Fellow