How to keep retired generals honest

West Point professor emeritus Don Snider today unveiled his plan for fixing the problem of retired generals’ ethics, most recently illustrated by the New York Times take-down of (fellow West Point prof) retired Gen Barry McCaffrey.

Snider writes in the Strategic Studies Institute’s latest update:


Can any retired three- or four-star general be a West Point professor upholding the standards of academicintegrity; a corporate advocate advancing through personal contacts thefortunes of defense contractors; an independent observer and objective reporterof current events for major news corporations; and, simultaneously, a moralexemplar for the Army Profession? The answer is a qualified yes; i.e., only ifthere is no possible perception of conflicts of interest.

[The chief of staff of the army] should quickly establish under the auspicesof the Profession an electronic registry of retired three- and four-stargenerals that details the affiliations of each officer, both with for-profitand not-for-profit entities. To rightly restore the moral obligations over thelegal, the registry would be voluntary. Each retired officer would voluntarilyenter their own affiliations and keep them current. Most importantly, theregistry would be open to the public so that any interested person could see atany time, under the auspices of the Profession, the ties each individualretired general has and has voluntarily offered to the public. Perceptions ofconflicts of interest can best be avoided if all affiliations are well-known inadvance of commitments and contracts.

Read Snider’s full commentary here.

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3 Responses to How to keep retired generals honest

  1. Anonymous 13 January, 2009 at 10:09 pm #

    What? a public database that could interfere with my RIGHT to parlay my xx years of service into a personal windfall?

    (Suggest the entry gate be dropped to all Flag Officers and those O-6s who have served in Program Management billets immediately prior to their retirement.)

  2. Fred Stratton 17 January, 2009 at 1:29 am #

    I concur with “anonymous” and would even extend Dr. Snider’s idea to all four services. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff could make quite a statement by teaming with Secretary Gates to restore faith in senior officer integrity and leadership of our profession. The unchecked iron triangle is corroding the sense of “service” among the officer ranks while breeding a sense of entitlement to lucrative post-retirement employment.

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