The Pentagon's inspector general is investigating whether the U.S. Air National Guard's former director violated federal ethics law by...
The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating whether the U.S. Air National Guard’s former director violated federal ethics law by accepting a job as a Boeing lobbyist only three months after he retired from the military, officials and the former director said.
Boeing hired retired Maj. Gen. Paul Weaver, 59, in May 2002 as part of a full-court press for state, congressional and White House support for a now-defunct $23 billion deal to lease aerial-refueling tankers to the Air Force.
That deal was shelved after conflict-of-interest charges that brought jail terms for Boeing’s former chief financial officer and the Air Force’s top acquisition officer.
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Senate Armed Services Committee leaders are broadening their scrutiny of the case to examine whether the Pentagon’s acquisition system is flawed. They want to know whether Weaver failed to observe a one-year, federally mandated “cooling off” period before lobbying officials at his former agency.
The Justice Department also is investigating, Weaver said.
Weaver, in a July 13 interview, said he did nothing wrong in lobbying state adjutant generals for the tankers. He cited an opinion from National Guard Bureau Chief Counsel and Ethics Adviser James Hise as showing those contacts weren’t covered by the law.
“I’m not the least bit concerned,” Weaver said.
The former director was “prohibited from attempting to influence official actions in your former department for one year,” said the opinion, provided by Weaver. The law “does not prohibit you from attempting to influence official actions of The Adjutants General in their capacity as state officials,” the paper said.
An adjutant general, who works for a state’s governor, is the highest-ranking state military official who monitors the readiness of National Guard units but does not have operational control.
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, requested the inquiry in a May 13 letter to the Pentagon inspector general. The letter refers to e-mails in 2002 and 2003 between officials from Boeing and the Air Force, according to three people who said they’ve read it. Weaver said that’s what prosecutors have asked him about.
When Weaver joined Boeing, the Air Force and Boeing were beginning intense negotiations on the tanker aircraft’s cost. After the proposal was submitted to Congress in 2003, Warner, Levin and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the No. 2 Republican on the Armed Services Committee, questioned the cost.
McCain was just starting what would be a campaign against the plan, saying the Air Force was circumventing Congress to seal a deal it didn’t need and couldn’t afford.
Boeing’s view of Weaver’s role was outlined in a Jan. 23, 2003, e-mail from Andy Ellis, vice president of the Washington office of Boeing’s defense unit, Integrated Defense Systems, to the unit’s president, James Albaugh.
“National Guard engaging through Paul Weaver, a consultant who is close to [then-Air Force Secretary James] Roche, at the state, local and federal level,” Ellis wrote.
“Boeing doing lots of stuff” to get support for the proposal, including getting unions to pressure the White House and Congress and subcontractors to press “state, local and federal contacts,” the e-mail said.
Weaver said he was questioned July 8 at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Va., about this e-mail and a May 21, 2002, e-mail exchange between him and Roche about the adjutants-general support.
Weaver said he told a Justice Department attorney and a Pentagon investigator that he had no contact with federal officials. “We utilized the adjutant generals to go to their congressmen and senators to get that support.”
Department spokeswoman Sam Dibbley declined comment.
Weaver registered as a Boeing lobbyist on May 1, 2002, according to records on file with the Senate.
“I didn’t go to Boeing; Boeing called me,” he said. “They asked me to garner support from the adjutant generals for the 767 tanker, F-22 and C-17,” three Boeing programs.
Boeing paid Weaver $100,000 for 2002 and $160,000 in both 2003 and 2004. He remains a Boeing lobbyist, said spokeswoman Debra Bosick, who added Boeing hasn’t been formally notified of the investigation.
Boeing to retain
Boeing will keep a $555 million contract to develop a combat radio for U.S. Army ground troops and helicopter pilots despite a government threat to cancel it.
The Army, which warned Boeing on April 25 that it might cancel the program, is continuing to assess the Joint Tactical Radio System and retains the option to kill or restructure it or its funding, the Army said yesterday.
The Amy’s “show cause” letter in April gave Boeing 30 days to detail progress on the project. It was sent after the Army determined Boeing might not meet the original schedule or costs, or both.
Boeing responded May 25. The Army said it will use Boeing’s reply to assess future designs of the radio. It did not detail Boeing’s response.
Boeing has depicted the radio contract as a chance to show it has expertise as an electronics-systems integrator as well as an aircraft builder.
The radio system is to be the main line for communications between ground troops and helicopters in the Army’s largest weapons program — the $125 billion Future Combat System family of ground vehicles, drones and other aircraft. Boeing is lead contractor for the entire program.
The Army’s plan calls for spending up to $20 billion to buy as many as 108,000 radios from Boeing. The radio-development portion of the program is valued at $555 million.