What is it with with our Republican froshes? Can't they agree with the White House on anything?
Two weeks ago, Marco Rubio made an ass of himself by using his weekly newsletter to oppose Barack Obama's "draft executive order" -- an order demanding that agencies bidding on government contracts disclose their political contributions. Now Allen West is on the case too, asking Daniel Gordon (of the Office of Management and Budget) questions he knows damned well the Hon. Gordon isn't allowed to answer and erecting enough strawmen to scare the pigeons from the National Mall forever.
Early in the exchange, West mentions that he once worked for a Department of Defense contractor. This is true. After his ignominious departure from the military, West worked for Military Professional Resources Inc., a company run by Bantz J. Craddock, a four-star general. That impressive connection allows him to phrase a query like this:
So I want to ask you this very simple question: The Department of Defense sends out an RFP to have recently retired individuals that can go and help to augment the military in Afghanistan or Iraq. Why, before a contract is awarded, would you then have the head of an organization, a retired three-star, four-star general, disclose his political affiliations or contributions?
The specter of the "three-star, four-star" general rears its head again in this exchange:
West: What has been broken in the procurement process up to this point which leads to that Draft Executive Order being proposed?
Gordon: As a general matter, as I said earlier, every procurement system -- ours, the states', the local governments', and foreign ones' -- are constantly facing a risk that the public will view their system as tainted, because the fact is, enormous numbers of dollars, of taxpayer funds, are at risk in the procurement system. And in order to instill confidence in the public, you want to have as much transparency as you can.
West: So you don't think the American people would have confidence in a retired three-star, four-star general to be able to, with his team, be able to write an RFP to compete for a contract? What purpose does it have with this draft executive order, to bring forth this requirement to disclose your political contributions?... I can understand, after a contract is awarded, that's public knowledge -- but why is that part of the criteria we have up-front?
Gordon: That would not be part of the evaluation criteria.
Is it even necessary to point out that Allen West's example -- a four-star general who also happens to be a military contractor -- is not at all representative? Of the 200 or so four-star generals in the history of the United States' army, only about 90 of them are still living. Of these, many are on active duty, and 21 of them are above age 80. How many of them are contractors?
It's hard to say. But none of them pops up on a list of the United States' top 100 federal contractors. Of the companies on that list, only General Dynamics seems to be administered at all by a former high-ranking military officer. (That's Adm. Jay L. Johnson, who serves as GD's vice chair.) These 100 companies command almost a quarter of a trillion dollars in annual government spending. I think it's safe to say that West's old outfit, which recently sold for a piddling $40 million, wasn't on Obama's mind when he wrote his order.
(And even if it was -- so what? Are ex-military personnel incorruptible?)
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Fact is, most military contractors are businessmen. As I wrote two weeks ago, opposition to the draft executive order makes sense only in a world in which businessmen and politicians are incorruptible and in which both businessmen and politicians function most honorably when nobody's watching. We don't live in that world, and we need look no further than our own state to prove it. Remember when two young, untrained, unqualified stoners from Miami convinced the Pentagon to cough up $300 million for useless munitions they harvested from dumps in Albania? And what about Harry Sargeant of Delray Beach -- a billionaire oil man who overcharged the United States taxpayer some $200 million for jet fuel bound for western Iraq? As it happens, Sargeant didn't win his contracts by contributing to American politicians -- though it seems increasingly likely that he maintained his monopoly on Jordanian shipping routes through bribes to that country's intelligence service. Still, he's a pretty good argument against the infantile notion that war contractors are all war heroes who wake up every morning single "Yankee Doodle."