Edward AldridgeWhen the New York Times wanted to illustrate the dizzying speed with which the revolving door between the Pentagon and its private contractors spins, it chose Edward “Pete” Aldridge as its poster boy.
In his 46 year career to date, Aldridge has rotated through 12 high level positions – 6 with defense contractors, 5 with the Defense Department(DOD), and one stint with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Following his longest private sector run (3 top jobs over 13 years) Aldridge became Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics in May 2001.
At this, his fourth Pentagon appointment, Aldridge approved a soon scandalized $23 billion deal for Boeing that landed the Air Force acquisitions chief in prison—for negotiating a job with Boeing while she pushed for the deal’s approval. Air Force Secretary James Roche was forced to resign, but Acquisition boss Aldridge remained unscathed.
In 2003 he bestowed his largesse on Lockheed Martin, approving a jet-fighter contract worth up to $200 billion, the largest in US history.
One month later Aldridge left the Pentagon, and was on Lockheed’s Board of Directors within weeks.
At a Congressional hearing of the Boeing scandal, the Pentagon’s Inspector General Joseph Schmitz reported he’d had trouble contacting Aldridge at Lockheed, and hadn’t gotten around to issuing a subpoena for his appearance.
Schmitz himself, after being charged with covering up several Pentagon probes, resigned to become Chief Operating Officer of Blackwater, the infamous private army contractor in Iraq.
Shortly after Aldridge found a home with the Pentagon’s largest weapons manufacturer, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appointed him to a blue-ribbon panel that would advise the Pentagon about weapons purchases.
Aldridge’s super-speed revolving door has spun him from McDonnell Douglas in the mid ‘60s, to DOD till ’72, LTV Aerospace Corp (later sold to the Carlyle Group) ’73-’74, back to Government - OMB for 2 years, then DOD Asst Secretary till ’76.
The bright lights of private enterprise lured him to the Systems Planning Corp – advanced weapon provider – ’77 to ’81, followed by a seven year Air Force stint as Under-Secretary, then Secretary.
McDonnell Douglas, his alma mater, welcomed him back in ‘88, this time as President, for the first four of the thirteen year sojourn on the private side.
The next nine were with Aerospace Corporation and United Industrial Corp, (main client: U.S. Air Force) before his latest, but who knows, perhaps not last Government service.
His two year, two scandal tour of duty segued into directorships at two huge defense contractors and one foreign-owned firm in charge of sensitive telecommunications, Alion Science and Technology, Lockheed Martin, and Global Crossing respectively—from 2003 to the present.
While wearing his current private sector hats, Aldridge has been on the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board, and two high-power commissions—the Presidential Commission on the Implementation of U.S. Space Exploration Policy (“Moon-to-Mars”) and a Pentagon panel on weapons acquisition—that benefited Lockheed Martin.
Aldridge is unrivaled as a recurring central figure in the system, which now provides not only corporate payback positions to officials, but corporate supervision of who those officials will be.
Boeing TankersWhile the Air Force was working out a deal to lease 100 aerial refueling planes from Boeing for $23 billion, Boeing was dangling a $250,000 VP position in front of the Air Force’s acquisitions chief, Darleen Druyun. Aldridge approved the deal, but it blew up in the Air Force’s face. Druyun went to prison, Air Force Secretary James Roche resigned, and the Pentagon Inspector General, Joseph Schmitz, muttered skipping over “normal acquisition routines” to replace the current tankers. If that seems like a slap on the wrist, it’s not surprising that Senator Charles Grassley accused Schmitz of political interference in the Boeing affair, saying “potential targets were shielded from accountability.” Grassley said Schmitz withheld info on the Boeing tanker investigation from Congress, redacting names of White House officials and submitting the report to the White House for review. Grassley also accused Schmitz of shutting down an investigation of a friend in the Air Force, and Grassley wrote to Rumsfeld asking if Schmitz had interfered in two 2004 criminal investigations. (Stonewalling and politicizing investigations makes sense for an IG with his sights set on the “coalition of the billing,” and that’s just where he went. In April 2005, Schmitz became COO of The Prince Group, parent company of the most notorious contractor in Iraq: Blackwater.)
The Boeing deal that Aldridge approved was seen as a bailout—Boeing had just lost out on a massive contract for F-35s to Lockheed Martin (see below for more on this deal) and was hard hit by the decline in air travel after September 11. Boeing e-mails showed that the company considered Aldridge an ally, and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that Aldridge had a “cozy relationship” with the company. Aldridge left the Pentagon very shortly after he approved the tanker deal.
Space CommissionMcCain also worried about Aldridge’s relationship with Boeing when Aldridge was appointed by President George W. Bush in January 2004 to chair the Presidential Commission on the Implementation of U.S. Space Exploration Policy. Boeing and Lockheed Martin jointly run the United Space Alliance, NASA’s largest contractor and the manager of the space shuttle program. (The Justice Department once sued United Space Alliance for concealing fraud by a subcontractor that would eventually plead guilty to 180 felony violations—including charging NASA for pizza delivery.) Aldridge was still on Lockheed’s board when he was appointed to the commission. McCain saw that Aldridge had a new opportunity to influence public policy in Lockheed’s favor, and he called on the commission to remove Aldridge. Aldridge stayed, and the committee recommended the “commercialization of space,” asking NASA to rely heavily on the private sector.
Lockheed Martin contractsU.S. federal law requires Pentagon employees who make decisions on contracts to wait a year before joining a military contractor. However, when Aldridge left the Pentagon, there was a giant loophole: the existing restrictions allowed many high-level policymakers to join corporations immediately. (The loophole was so big that the Bush administration—no foe of Pentagon contractors—issued an executive order to prevent its senior officials from pursuing ethics waivers that would allow them to negotiate jobs with contractors while they were still on the government clock.) Aldridge went straight to Lockheed Martin’s board.
In October 2001, Aldridge had approved what was expected to be the largest procurement of Pentagon aircraft in history, a contract for a stealth, supersonic F-35 jet-fighter worth up to $200 billion. The contract, with an immediate award of $19 billion, went to Lockheed Martin. (It was this contract that sent Boeing looking for a “bailout.”)
In January 2003, Aldridge approved another stealth fighter contract for Lockheed Martin, this time a $3 billion deal for the F/A-22. Aldridge had previously threatened to kill the program, saying it was too expensive. Two months after approving the contract, Aldridge landed a seat on Lockheed’s board. A year after that, the General Accounting Office (GAO) noted the skyrocketing cost of the program, and the Pentagon failed to demonstrate why “current and projected threats” made the program necessary.
Aldridge was later appointed, while still on the Lockheed board, to a blue-ribbon panel that made recommendations to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about weapons acquisitions.
Global Crossing/Defense Science BoardAldridge joined telecommunications giant Global Crossing in 2003, just as it was emerging from a controversy over its proposed sale to foreign owners. The company had accepted a joint bid from Singapore Technologies Telemedia (STT), part of the Singapore government’s investment arm, and Hutchison Whampoa, a Chinese company owned by Li Ka-shing.
Ka-Shing, a Chinese tycoon, helped the People’s Liberation Army finance communication networks, accepted $400 million from the Chinese government for Hutchison Whampoa, and entered a real estate deal with Chinese president Jiang Zemin. He is also a business partner of the Chinese government and military, and U.S. authorities have called his company a risk for smuggling arms into the U.S. and said that Ka-Shing is a tool for Beijing. When the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a cross-agency panel chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury, stepped in to review the sale, Hutchison Whampoa dropped out. Despite Aldridge’s history of conflicts of interest, it was his affiliation with Global Crossing that made the U.S. government feel more at ease about selling the company to Singapore.
The Department of Homeland Security, also on the panel, stated that the type of large, “backbone” network that Global Crossing is extremely sensitive because of the disastrous consequences of a network disruption, so the Department of Justice requested that Aldridge sit on a security committee at the company to monitor their compliance with the National Security Agreement that allowed the deal to go through.
The U.S. government did, however, request Aldridge’s resignation from the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory panel with access to classified material, in order to stay on with Global Crossing. Aldridge had been on the board since 1993. (Aldridge wasn’t the only Pentagon regular to lose an advisory board seat with access to classified material over the Global Crossing deal. Richard Perle, a former Reagan assistant defense secretary, who was serving on the Defense Policy Board, had a lobbying position with Global Crossing and advocated the deal. He was paid $125,000 by Global Crossing, with an additional $600,000 to come if the sale was approved. He ultimately resigned from the board and gave up Global Crossing’s compensation.)
Alion’s rise of fortuneAldridge took a seat on the board of another government contractor after leaving the Pentagon: Alion Science and Technology. Alion CEO Bahman Atefi hired major military figures to improve Alion’s fortunes, picking up Aldridge in November of 2003. Alion had $1 million in government contracts through 2003. Since then, they’ve picked up over $350 million.
Aldridge, as of December 2008 is still on the boards of Lockheed Martin, Global Crossing, and Alion. He sits on Alion’s compensation committee, and at Lockheed and Global Crossing, he sits on the audit committees, where he oversees the corporations’ financial reporting processes. The Corporate Library, a company that rates the effectiveness of boards of directors, gave Global Crossing a grade of D.
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