When Lockheed Martin Corp. lost a 2001 contract to archrival Boeing, it cried foul. The contract was to upgrade aging C-130 transports. And Lockheed after all, had been building the C-130 for 50 years at its plant in Marietta. It turned out Boeing had a powerful hidden advocate. Her name was Darleen Druyun. She was a top Pentagon acquisition official. In return for a promised executive position at Boeing she steered billions in federal contracts their way, including $20 billion for the tanker program. Talk about a federal jobs program at taxpayer expense! She recently pled guilty to criminal conspiracy and was sentenced to 9 months in prison.
Now Lockheed has filed a protest over the Boeing contracts, and is seeking unspecified remedies. A Lockheed spokesman said, “It would be inappropriate to say anything more while the matter is under protest.” Perhaps it would be inappropriate for Lockheed to say anything at all, lest they attract attention to the conditions of some of the billions of dollars of contracts they have received from the government, including from the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA.
Norman Mineta, the only Democrat in President Bush’s cabinet, heads up the Department of Transportation, including the TSA. Mineta may be best known as the cabinet secretary who adamantly opposes racial profiling to identify terrorists who threaten aviation security. But he’s also a former vice president with Lockheed and reportedly retains over 18,000 stock options in the company. Mineta left his position as Lockheed senior vice president in 2000 to become President Clinton’s commerce secretary.
Michael P. Jackson, who also comes from Lockheed Martin, became the Deputy Secretary of Transportation. A Lockheed Martin spokesman had nothing to say about whether Mineta and Jackson would give the company any advantage in securing contracts with Transportation.
Lockheed Martin, meanwhile, has received billions of dollars in federal contracts under the Bush administration, including hundreds of millions from the Department of Transportation. There may be nothing wrong with any of these contracts, but the Druyun affair has put a cloud over federal contracting. The Boeing scandal has also raised security issues. Boeing was spearheading the Future Combat System, a complex modernization plan for the U.S. military. An Army report highlights the risk of giving Boeing Co. such a broad role in the plan.
Senator John McCain called the Boeing affair a “national disgrace.” But no words of outrage followed an Inspector General report which found that after the TSA had spent billions of taxpayer dollars, aviation security in the U.S. is still at 1980’s levels. Reports issued by Inspectors General and such agencies as the GAO often outline malfeasance by government officials. Until such reports carry the weight of possible criminal investigations, talk of indignation from the politicians rings hollow. Politicians who have oversight responsibility have permitted these things to happen. It’s not just civilians like Druyun who should be paying the price in prison for such behavior.