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"Don't shoot me, I'm only the Raytheon lobbyist;" a defense lobbyist told the truth about the Pentagon budget, now he's out of a job.

On a February afternoon in 1986, the day before President Reagan made a nationally televised speech to promote his defense budget, the Committee for National Security, a Washington policy group, held a press conference on Capitol Hill. On the dais was Lawrence J. Korb, who just the year before had been serving in the Reagan Defense Department as assistant secretary for manpower and military preparedness. Like many military men before him Korb had left the public service to become a lobbyist. He was head of the Washington office of Raytheon.

In his remarks, Korb echoed what had become a rather familiar and accepted notion by the middle of the president's second term: with a vast deficit and an unwillingness to reduce spending on domestic programs, Congress was sure to cut the defense budget. Given this fiscal climate, Korb explained, he had signed on to the committee's alternative budget, a proposal to keep military spending at pace with inflation (rather than outstrip it, as the administration desired). He added that it was the best one could hope for from Congress.

"What we have to do is avoid the temptation for the easy cuts," said Korb.

The next morning, across the Potomac, the temperature rose inside the office of John Lehman, the secretary of the Navy. Reading The Washington Post, Lehman was stunned by the headline. "Pentagon ExDefender Turns Critic." Lehman later told investigators that he "especially was upset" by the Post's report that Korb had urged cuts in his 600-ship, 15-carrier-group Navy. (While Lehman had argued for 15 carrier battle groups, Korb supports 13.) At the press conference, Korb had not directly criticized the navy buildup, but he had spoken in general terms about maintaining a strong defense in the face of deficit pressures. The secretary, though, had seen enough.

When Korb arrived at his office the following day he was surprised by a call from a senior vice president of Raytheon, R. Gene Shelley. Shelley was based at Raytheon's headquarters in Lexington, Massachusetts and had never called Korb before. It was the start of a long morning. Shelley and another Raytheon executive had already been contacted by Melvyn R. Paisley, assistant secretary of the Navy for reserves, systems, and engineering, and Everett Pyatt, assistant secretary for shipbuilding and logistics. A third call came from Carl Smith, who served on the Republican staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Together the three men helped shape the nation's military budget and exercised enormous influence over billions of dollars in government contracts. They were not calling to congratulate Korb on his fine talk.

Before he had time to recover, the phone rang again. This time it was Korb's immediate boss, Philip Phalon. He told Korb to get upstairs quickly and said, "All hell's breaking loose up here." Korb headed up to the office, where he recalls Phalon saying, "You're in a lot of trouble. [Raytheon President D. Brainerd] Holmes says if you criticized Lehman's 600-ship Navy you should be fired." Korb defended himself and promised to call Pyatt and Paisley to straighten things out.

The next Wednesday, Korb went to Lexington to attend a staff meeting at Raytheon headquarters, uncertain of where he stood. It did not take long for him to find"When I walked into the room people looked at me like I had AIDS," he recalls. Korb describes a private and disturbing conversation he said he had with Phalon after the meeting. In court briefs, Phalon denies the meeting ever took place, and Raytheon officials have refused to discuss the case.

"The Navy has said they never want to see you," Korb recalls Phalon saying. "You're going to have to go." Phalon said that Assistant Secretary Pyatt had warned the chief of Raytheon's missile division that he would "stop assisting Raytheon with certain defense contracts" so long as Korb continued to criticize the defense budget. As for Carl Smith, the Republican committee aide, Phalon said that Smith did not want to see anyone from Raytheon's Washington office as long as Korb was there. Two former staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee say that Smith was unusually close to senior navy officials.

Korb was asked to resign from his $150,000-a-year job on March 12. In an effort to salvage his past, he contacted John Warner, then the second-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former secretary of the Navy, who called Raytheon on Korb's behalf. Melvin Laird, the former defense secretary and a friend of Korb, made a call to John Lehman, in support of the besieged lobbyist. But whatever support may have been lent, it may well have been undermined just days later by notes that were dispatched from Lehman's deputies to Raytheon's executives. They were not what one might call letters of recommendation.

"The Navy objects strongly to officers of our contractors, whose salaries are paid in part by the Department of Defense, speaking as company officers, attacking President Reagan's defense program," Assistant Secretary Pyatt wrote Phalon. Paisley wrote Gene Shelley, seeming to cheer Korus firing. He complimented hi"on the outstanding way in which you attacked our mutual concerns." Both officials did write that they could continue working with Korb, provided he was less outspoken. But by then, Korb was already out the door.

For his part, Lehman maintains that he never told anyone to call Raytheon. He has said he simply "expressed concern" at his biweekly staff meeting. But months after the incident he told The Washington Post: "I had every hope Raytheon would tell [Korb] to shut up and stop testifying against his principal customer '"

Lehman declared that he considered it "a personal affront. . . [that] a so-called team player would join the forces of the opposition," adding that "gentlemen don't do that." Lehman also pointed out-a la Don Corleone-that although his deputies did not threaten to take action against Raytheon or its $3 billion-plus in Pentagon contracts"you don't have to get specific. It's understood you're unhappy." (Neither Lehman nor his deputies returned phone calls for this story.)

Hearing Lehman, you need to remind yourself that Korb's criticisms of the defense budget were mild in the extreme. This was, after all, a Reaganappointee-turned-defense-contractoi-.

But what happened to Lawrence Korb isn't merely the case of one man done wrong. We all suffer and not in some abstract way. On any day, Congress and the executive branch and policy makers throughout the bureaucracy are making crucial decisions about the hardware and strategy we will pursue in support of our national defense. Over the next decade, as the deficit hangs heavy over any defense budget, the country will make these choices in rapidfire succession. One can say with certainty that we will make the wrong choices if we are denied the voices of those who understand the details. Are the hydraulics on the M-1 tank functional? Is the Seawolf submarine a reliable vessel? Will the software on SDI work? Those who have devoted their lives to the vital minutiae of defense need to feel comfortable enough to speak out, to raise their voices against the din of those liberals who oppose new weapons with Pavlovian certainty or those conservatives who embrace them with equal predictability. Ideally, our debate would be informed by those enlisted men of every rank who could speak openly about weapons that they have seen fail on the landing strip in the Philippines or those that cheered them in the Mediterranean. But barring a sudden outbreak of outspokenness among Americans in uniform, we need, at the very least, to hear the voices of those on the perimeter of the Pentagon, those in the defense industry, those whose understanding of the military is not gleased from newspapers but steeped in the data bases and computer projections and regression analyses that are at the heart of our security.

Exile in Philly

Lawrence Korb is very much of that world of defense analysts. Now 49, he is director of public policy education at the Brookings Institution, following a short spell as dean of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. Korb received his Ph.D. from SUNYAlbany in 1969, and went on to teach government at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Georgetown University. In 1980 he joined the American Enterprise Institute.

Korb is not through with those who ushered him out of the defense industry more than two years ago: last February he brought a $1 million suit against the navy officials and Carl Smith for violating his first amendment rights. His case is in the hands of Kate Martin of the American Civil Liberties Union, who until recently defended Oliver North.

Among the first to suggest using the courts was Morton Halperin, head of the ACLU's Washington office. He advised Korb to take a stand to help pave the way for others.

"I thought there was an important principle," says Halperin. "I believe his first amendment rights were being violated, and I believe if he did not challenge it, then other people would be reluctant to do so in the future." The case is now on appeal after being dismissed by a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia on July 19.

Among the several congressmen who rose to support Korb was Denny Smith, a Republican congressman from Oregon and then the cochairman of the Military Reform Caucus in the House. 'John Lehman is a very devious individual who directed Paisley and Pyatt to get [Korb]," he charges. "These guys should have been tried for blackmail a long time ago '" In July 1986, the congressman requested that the Defense Department's inspector general look into the affair. The report, released in October of that year, offers a chronology of what happened to Korb. The inspector general graciously acknowledged Korb's right to speak out, calling it "selfevident," and he did charge that the navy officials "acted improperly," intending to muzzle Korb. Although there was no smoking memo that anyone ordered Raytheon totake action, the inspector general chided the officials for failing to recognize the chilling effect of their calls. As Lehman later admitted, when the top brass is dealing with a contractor they don't need to enunciate every syllable to make their displeasure known.

Accompanying the IG report was a short letter from Caspar Weinberger, then secretary of defense. Defense Department officials "should never seek to pressure contractors or their personnel to express (or not to express) views on any matter of public policy," Weinberger wrote. The secretary made no effort to help Korb or to punish Lehman & Co.

Fantastically, Raytheon officials told the inspector general that pressure from the Pentagon had nothing to do with their decision to ask Korb for his resignation. Phalon said that the dismissal was "part of a continuum '" Shelley, the company's senior vice president, dismissed Korb's ouster as a "minor flap'" But it's the rare businessman who sits calmly when the customer writes angry letters. And the Defense Department accounted for more than 50 percent of Raytheon's $7.3 billion in sales that year.

The inspector general's report and other documents also paint an odd picture of Lehman and his deputies. At the same time they were furious about Korb, they were trying to keep him from being fired. Shortly after Korb had been told to pack his bags, Raytheon officials turned around and offered him another position, a less prestigious post in the company's Philadelphia office, where he'd take a $90,000-a-year cut to $60,000. (Phalon himself admitted "That's not a big end of our business .") In his affidavit, Lehman says that he "heard a report" that Korb was going to be fired and decided to call Raytheon's president to say that the Navy did not wish to see that happen. Phalon confirmed to the IG investigators that a new job for Korb "certainly was discussed. . .as a result of a call he received from Mr. Lehman."

Why might Lehman try to keep Korb off the unemployment Tin& A glimmer of the Navy's concern can be seen in a bizarre conversation Korb recalls having with Paisley, Lehman's deputy. Some weeks after he left Raytheon, Korb went to see Paisley. When the incident first flared, Korb had called Paisley to explain himself. Now, he had a surprise call from Paisley. He says Paisley asked, "Did the letters do the trick?" seemingly unaware of Korb's ouster. Korb told of his nosedive and then dejectedly fished for conversation. The topic of the day was an attack on the U.S. forces by Libyan patrol boats. Korb remarked how it reminded him of the Gulf of Tonkin incident in Vietnam. "I remember at the time I was talking to my commanding officer... '" Korb began. Paisley, a former pilot, looked stunned.

"You were in the service? he interjected. Sure, Korb replied, he flew patrol planes for four years in Vietnam.

"Oh my God," Paisley replied. "If I had known that, I would never have done any of this to you." (Paisley did not return several messages placed on his telephone answering machine.)

Korb says Paisley promised to see what he could do. It's unlikely that nii sty-eyed memories of the service might spur Paisley to help Korb keep his job. Political savvy is a more plausible explanation. It's easy to picture Lehman, who never saw combat in Vietnam and whose military duty began in the Pennsylvania National Guard and ended in the Naval Reserve, realizing that the ouster of a real war veteran could turn into a public relations disaster. The press would treat Korb like a whistleblower and declare open season on the "chicken hawk" who loved big weapons but never found it in himself to use one in combat. Keeping Korb at Raytheon could have avoided the problem of his roaming around on the outside, sharing his disenchantment with the press. In LBJ's words, it's better to have him in the tent pissing out than the other way around. Of course, none of the shuffling to find a new job for Korb made any difference. He quit.

The lie detector

It's reasonable to ask whether Korb was falling down on the job and was likely to be shown the door whether or not he spoke out on the defense budget. Raytheon officials have declined comment, but others do concede that it was not a perfect union. Frank Hinchon, a former senior official in the Washington office and retired 28-year veteran of Raytheon, said that executives did not applaud Korb's public speaking. "We never had anyone in this position who did that kind of thing," Hinchon explains.

But Korb was hardly destined to be fired. Indeed, the company had hired a consultant to go to Korb specifically and recruit him for the post. Perhaps Raytheon's expectations of Korb were unclear, but Phalon's deposition describes a hiring process that is hardly haphazard: Phalon s"The criteria for Washington Office Chief is rather lengthy and includes enough so that the fellow would really have to walk on the Potomac to get there. . .but Dr. Korb seemed to fit that list very well." No one at Raytheon has ever claimed to have cautioned Korb against public speaking. On the contrary, Korb says that when he first began work at Raytheon he asked Phalon if speaking engagements would present a problem. "Not at all," he says Phalon told him. "That will help you make contacts."

Indeed, no one complained when Korb openly criticized the Defense Department several times prior to the pivotal February press conference. Months before, as the speaker at Raytheon's quarterly dinner, Korb discussed the problem of increasing the navy force structure and the need to compromise on defense spending-precisely the points that later sent him into a tailspin. In early February, he repeated the same remarks in a CBS interview filmed at his office and aired on national TV. Again there were no angry reproaches. The problems came only after The Washington Post had flagged his statement on Capitol Hill with a strong headline and the Pentagon became upset. So long as the navy brass did not notice Korb, it seems, the Raytheon people did not seem upset.

What seems much more likely is that navy pressure did in Korb. After all, Lehman had never held any great place in his heart for Korb. In 1982, Korb gave a confidential briefing to the Pentagon's Defense Resources Board, pointing out the mismatch between military strategy and resources. Somehow the briefing wound up in The Washington Post, and everyone involved had to take a lie detector test. An aide of Korb's was eventually sacked after failing the test. According to Korb, Lehman then made a personal attack on the aide before the board. Convinced of his aide's innocence, Korb accused Lehman of taking a "cheap shot." A heated skirmish ensued. (The Post writer, George Wilson, later said the assistant had not been his source.) The incident was typical of Lehman, says Korb"If he didn't like the analysis, he went after the analyst '"

With Lehman steering the department with such a heavy hand, it is difficult to imagine his keeping a distance in the Korb affair. Certainly it would have been inconsistent with his close working relationship with Paisley. Yet the Navy claims its statements about Korb were simply expressions of spontaneous outrage, with no relation to previous animosities. In his court affidavit, Paisley stated that he never knew Pyatt had contacted anyone at Raytheon until he learned it from the press. But if the two were acting independently, why were their letters to Raytheon both dated March 19? If Lehman was instructing them, as Korb suggests, presumably the three acted in concert. Paisley's innocence also would require that he and Pyatt never once discussed Korb for more than three weeks-a period that included at least one general staff meeting.

Even more distressing than a conspiracy is the idea that navy contracts were used to coerce Raytheon into cutting Korb loose (or exiling him to Philadelphia). "This is all part of the defense procurement scandal as far as I'm concerned," says Denny Smith. "They were manipulating people, products, test results, and anything else they wanted to change '" Two contracts for Phoenix and Standard missiles were indeed won by Raytheon a few months after the Korb incident, although there is no evidence of impropriety. But certainly a threat-even a tacit one-to interfere with those contracts would have been just as effective as any promise of a benefit for silencing Korb. And when it comes to threats, remember you need only hint at your displeasure.

Phalon, Korb's boss, was indignant when such charges were raised by the IG investigators. "I have far greater respect for people that work for the United States Department of Defense than to think that," he said. But of course Melvyn Paisley is not exactly above reproach. He now stands at the center of the defense procurement scandal, suspected, among other things, of rigging defense contracts. And Time reported in July that the Justice Department has "specific, solid evidence" that Lehman learned of the government investigation and warned Paisley. Even if this was not a crime, it highlights a disturbing, collusive element of the relationship between these two men and does little to dispel charges that they conspired to silence Korb.

Liberals and Americans

Korb has found no more relief in the courts than he has in the bureaucracy. In dismissing his $1 million suit in July, the federal district judge in Virginia declared that even if the "stimulus" to fire Korb came from government officials, those officials are not accountable for what Raytheon chooses to do. To win, Korb would need to prove that Raytheon wa"coerced" into a decision. But Lehman's own words seem like strong evidence that coercion was used.

This wouldn't be the first time that the courts have shut the door on someone who speaks up. One of the main cases cited by Korb's judge dealt with Secretary James Watt. In the 1981 case, Watt v Donohoe, Watt was reported to have said to a private gathering. "I never use the words Republicans and Democrats. It's liberals and Americans." A Washington lobbyist for an energy company, disturbed when he saw the quote, wrote Watt a threeparagraph letter asking for a clarification of his remarks. Watt responded by dispatching an assistant to write to the president of the lobbyist'$ company in Texas and to the president of the industry trade association. The lobbyist was fired shortly afterwards, and the courts granted him no relief.

With so many "experts" moving through the revolving door into the private sector, it is unlikely that Korb will be the last of his kind. And unless courts take a more liberal view of coercion it is likely these future voices will be lost. But discerning judges alone won't solve the problem. We need defense officials who not only tolerate but encourage debate inside and outside the government. No matter what views are aired when it comes to procurement, of course, the government is supposed to award contracts because a company's products are the most effective and efficient available, not because it likes the people selling those products.

In some small way, Korb can take heart. As far as the budget reductions that Korb supported in his press conference, which Lehman called "dangerous" policies that would "undermine national security," the Defense Department would have been better off agreeing with him and digging in their heels. The amount of money the dangerous CNS alternative budget of 1986 would have allotted for next year amounts to $7 billion more than the Pentagon has even requested.
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Title Annotation:Lawrence J. Korb
Author:Crowley, Lyle
Publication:Washington Monthly
Date:Nov 1, 1988
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