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Disclosure law leaves fewer mentors at Pentagon

Jul. 28, 2011 - 09:45PM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 28, 2011 - 09:45PM  |  
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The number of retired generals hired by the Pentagon to advise the military has declined dramatically now that they must divulge outside income to avoid a conflict of interest and had their pay capped, according to reports.

The reports compiled by Pentagon ethics officers show that the military now employs 20 senior mentors — down from at least 158 mentors that USA Today identified in 2009 as getting as much as $330 an hour to offer advice on war plans and weapons systems.

The Navy no longer employs any retired admirals to advise its sailors, the documents show. And Joint Forces Command, which employed dozens of mentors in Virginia and abroad, now has one.

Army Brig. Gen. Steven Anderson criticized as inappropriate the requirement that officers make their finances public, saying that it had "essentially killed the program." The regulations force mentors to be hired as government employees and their pay capped at about $180,000.

But retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Timothy McMahon, who advises the military on its nuclear weapons, said the changes were justified. McMahon resigned as a vice president of defense contractor Northrop Grumman, where he had earned $515,000 since 2009, according to the records.

McMahon Associates, the consulting firm that he founded solely to advise the Air Force, was paid $365,000 in fees by the military. It no longer makes money, he said.

"I gave up a substantial financial position and took another hit to change from a contractor to a government employee," he said.

The USA Today investigation found that 80 percent of the mentors had financial ties to defense contractors that they were not required to make public. The stories prompted former Defense Secretary Robert Gates to overhaul the system, and Congress made the rules into federal law.

Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., of the armed services committee, said the Pentagon is better off with fewer mentors than ones with potential conflicts.

"I want to know the advice the Pentagon receives is not motivated or influenced by defense contractors," Andrews said.

Anderson said the losers in this are the troops.

"These great young Americans can no longer benefit from the best available counsel our nation has to offer prior to arrival in the combat zone," Anderson said.

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