Infotech and the Law: Lessons learned from the Druyun debacle

Devon Hewitt

In October, Darleen Druyun, a former Air Force procurement officer and former Boeing Co. executive, was sentenced to nine months in federal prison for helping Boeing win Air Force business at the same time she was negotiating a job with the company.

Druyun admitted she had approved the Air Force's lease of 100 modified Boeing jets as air refueling tankers at inflated prices as a "parting gift" to the company before her November 2002 retirement from the Air Force. In her plea agreement, Druyun said she promoted the tanker deal to curry favor with Boeing, which subsequently hired her as its deputy general manager for the missile defense systems unit.

Druyun also stated she had approved the tanker deal because she felt indebted to Boeing for hiring her daughter and son-in-law. She also admitted that she had disclosed to Boeing the proprietary pricing of another offerer, and also had influenced the award of a $278 million NATO contract to Boeing.

The Druyun case suggests that the rules governing a government official's exploration of nonfederal employment need repeating. Under applicable procurement integrity rules, if a government official who participates personally and substantially in procuring a contract worth more than $100,000 is contacted by a bidder regarding nonfederal employment, that official must report the contact to a supervisor and reject the offer or disqualify himself or herself, in writing, to the head of the contracting activity from further participation in the procurement.

In addition, a former government official who served as a procuring contracting officer, source selection authority, member of a source selection evaluation board, or chief of a financial or technical evaluation team in a procurement for a contract valued more than $10 million may not accept compensation from the contract awardee for one year following the period in which the official served.
The same restriction applies to former officials who have served as program managers, deputy program managers or administrative contracting officers of a contract valued more than $10 million.

Druyun blatantly violated these rules. She began working on the tanker deal in late 2001. Druyun's daughter advised Boeing's then Chief Financial Officer Michael Sears in September 2002 that her mother was considering retiring from the Air Force and was interested in exploring job opportunities in "the Chicago area" ? the location of Boeing's headquarters.

In October 2002, Druyun negotiated the NATO aircraft order that was issued to Boeing. On Oct. 17, she met with Sears to discuss employment at Boeing. On Nov. 5, Druyun recused herself from working on Boeing matters. She retired from the Air Force Nov. 21 and joined Boeing in January 2003.

Hopefully, the Druyun case isn't a foretaste of things to come. According to a report published by the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington watchdog group, during the last seven years, more than 200 former senior government officials and members of Congress have worked for the country's largest defense contractors, such as Boeing Co., General Dynamics Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co.

Although contractors should hire experienced, knowledgeable people, the revolving door of government creates risks. The government contracts industry has seen unparalleled consolidation at the same time most of the federal procurement workforce is retiring or leaving government. This makes government increasingly dependent on the knowledge and know-how of a relatively small group of contractors in order to implement sophisticated technical solutions to the government's growing defense needs. In other words, the fox is now guarding the hen house. n

Devon Hewitt is a partner of Government Practices at ShawPittman in McLean, Va. She can be reached at [email protected]

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