Another Ethics Problem?
“Another Obama appointee with ethics problem” screams the headline. Missed it? So did I. Actually, the headline buried on A14 of my Sunday paper is far more sedate: “Defense agency gave contracts to firm with links to director.” Contracts worth $1.8 million over the past two years. “Links”? What kind of “links” does Dr. Regina Dugan, Director of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), have with RedXDefense, the company in question? She and her father founded the firm. She still owns stock, though how much is not clear: she listed the value as 0 on her disclosure form because it is not publicly traded. Her father is CEO. Her uncle is involved too. But don’t worry, she merely has “links” with RedXDefense. Oh, and RedXDefense still owes her $250,000 from a loan, so she would have no interest in her company receiving government business.
Crane Lopes, DARPA’s general counsel, is on the case. “I reviewed the contract and agreement at issue and have discussed the matter with DARPA personnel. I found no credible evidence of misconduct by the director with regard to RedXDefense contracts since 2009.” OK, glad a thorough review was not warranted, allowing Mr. Lopes to go back to the important things he does, like investigating improper award of government contracts.
Besides, “Director Regina Dugan recused herself from any role in DARPA’s dealings with the small defense-technology company.” That’s a relief, because her subordinates would have no incentive whatsoever to award contracts to their boss’s company (not her former company, her company). “Nonetheless, ethics experts said the arrangement raises questions about whether her subordinates could be expected to treat her company like any other.” Please, ethics experts, these are public servants, they would never steer government work to their boss even if it was shovel-ready.
Let’s look at the timeline. Dugan was a “top DARPA official from 1996 to 2000,” and she was appointed director in 2009. I know it’s arduous, but one would think Ken Dilanian, of the Tribune Washington Bureau, would have done just a little digging to determine who the presidents were in those years. Well, Mr. Dilanian, this is your lucky day, because I have done that research for you: Dr. Dugan was appointed by the Clinton and Obama administrations. Feel free to use that information should you feel an amplification or clarification is in order.
Henry Percy is the nom de guerre for a technical writer living in Arizona. He may be reached at saler.50d[at]gmail.com.