Washington, DC — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commander who approved the controversial Halliburton contracts in Iraq is now going to work for a major private contractor seeking to expand its business with the government. The move casts further suspicion on the integrity of federal contract award decisions, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
General Robert B. Flowers, who officially retired earlier this month, will head a new subsidiary of the HNTB Companies whose mission is to win big engineering contracts from the federal government. Flowers, a career Army officer with the Corps, personally approved a controversial series of no-bid contracts between the Pentagon and a subsidiary of Halliburton for a range of reconstruction work in Iraq.
Flowers becomes just the latest in a parade of Pentagon officials and Corps commanders who have left the government to work for the very companies whose eligibility for government contracts they formerly managed. The last five former top Corps commanders have joined consulting, engineering and transportation companies that depend on the Corps or other federal agencies for the bulk of their business.
At HNTB, Flowers will become the chief executive of a newly formed subsidiary that is to provide “federal sector clients a wide range of engineering and architecture services, including civil engineering, security planning, and military facility design,” according to the company’s press release. These services are precisely the type of work Flowers oversaw in his position at the Corps.
“Incest may be a crime against nature but is the sleazy norm for government contractors, lobbyists and former Corps commanders” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the type of no-bid contract awarded Halliburton depended on precisely the type of insider contacts that Flowers is now seeking to exploit. “The Corps-contractor revolving door blurs the distinction between national service and servicing the nation at taxpayer expense.”
Under federal “revolving door” prohibitions, Flowers may not deal directly with Corps officials for a specified period on matters under his control when he was Chief of Engineers. At HNTB, Flowers “will develop the strategic plan” for getting large new government contracts.
Ironically, when Flowers was confirmed as Chief of Engineers in late 2000, he stated that he had come out of retirement to help out the scandal-plagued Corps at a critical time and once that work was done would return to retirement (“When I’m finished with (being) chief of engineers, I’m going fishing,” he stated in an interview). Instead Flowers will cash in on his service with a high-salaried position as a CEO.