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Lobbying rules strict enough, says controller.

Despite inspector general investigations and allegations of unethical behavior in the defense industry, it would be unwise for the Pentagon to change currant conflict-of-interest policies, said Dov Zakheim, controller and undersecretary of defense.

The Pentagon is "pretty strict about this," Zakheim said in an interview with defense reporters. Responding to questions about the Boeing-related investigations and whether they should lead to tighter scrutiny of the industry, Zakheim cautioned that people may be overreacting to recent events and neglecting to see the big picture.

Defense Department employees who are hired by defense contractors are barred from dealing with the Pentagon for a year, and they cannot do business with the department for two years in any area they specifically oversaw. Zakheim believes this policy is stringent enough.

If the policies were made tougher, they would have a chilling effect that may deter the most competent and ambitious people from serving in the government, he said. "One of the difficulties that increasing strictness raises is how you get good people."

If the Pentagon hired people who have no knowledge of the defense business and put them in charge, the press would be writing stories about the "ignoramuses running the Defense Department," Zakheim said. "You want to be taking people with expertise.

"Once you take people with expertise, you have to ask, do they have something to go back to? If they do not, then you are only going to get two kinds of people: fabulously wealthy people or people about to retire. You will not get people who are on the way up, because they will say, 'if I go to the Defense Department, it will wreck my career."

As it is, he said, "we don't exactly get the equivalent pay or benefits or lifestyle of people with similar type of responsibility" in the private sector. "To add restrictions because something went wrong with one individual, on top of the restrictions that already exist and that are seen as onerous by many people, is going in the wrong direction."
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Title Annotation:Washington Pulse
Author:Fein, Geoff S.
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2004
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