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Military officers working on terminal leave (like all Federal employees) are prohibited by 18 USC 205 and 18 USC 203 from representing their new employer to the Government. This makes problematic the increasingly common practice of contractor personnel physically working in Government offices. We think the criminal statutes preclude a member from interacting or appearing in the Federal workplace as a contractor. Being present in Government offices on behalf of a contractor inherently is a representation. Of course, military officers on terminal leave may begin work with the contractor, but only "behind the scenes" at a contractor office or otherwise away from the Government workplace. Enlisted members are not subject to 18 USC 203 or 205.
Prepare for close scrutiny of your office's conference and travel-related expenses. Senator Tom Coburn's staff conducted a five year review of Government conference spending and found that spending has increased by 70 percent. The Senator is particularly upset when an agency sends a large delegation of employees to a conference. Examples cited include sending groups in excess of 100 and extreme examples of 236 employees to Barcelona, Spain and 1000 employees to Orlando, Florida. Also criticized was the frequent use of "lavish locales" including Palm Springs, Atlantic City, and Las Vegas. This follows on the Senate Finance Committee's look at Medicare conferences reported in the last SOCO Advisory. Signs point to increased Congressional interest in conference attendance numbers and locations.
With the start of a new year of financial disclosure filing, DoD SOCO re-evaluated its practice of reviewing reports to:
identify whether reported companies appeared on the $25K contractor list (companies identified as doing over $25,000.00 of business with the Department during the previous fiscal year); and
send warning letters to filers identifying those companies on the list.
Use of a list creates an impression in filers that it is the sole basis for identifying potential conflicts of interest and gives them a false sense of security. The use of the DoD-wide list (with its almost fifty thousand entries) at local commands without locally-tailored lists compounds this impression. As a solution, DoD SOCO will no longer compare the reported companies to the 25K list, with the exception of Senate approved Presidential appointees (PAS).
We will now issue warning letters advising the filer that all interests required to be reported on the financial disclosure report, except diversified mutual funds and unit investment trusts (5 CFR 2640.201), create potential conflicts of interest. This focuses the filer's attention on their holdings.
We will continue to post the $25K Contractor List for its original purpose as a divestiture threshold for PAS officials.
We will also post a model warning letter on our website shortly. The letter tells the filer that while his or her supervisor has certified that the listed assets do not currently create a conflict, the interests represent a potential for future conflict of interest. In addition we warn on possible conflicts with outside activities and financial interests the filer acquires after submitting the report. SOCO will email the letter to the filer with a copy to the certifying supervisor and attach an electronic, corrected copy of the filer's report. The letter will train and encourage employees to be on constant guard against potential conflict of interest violations, as well as give them a leg up on doing the following year's report accurately. DoD's use of the new warning letter is an improvement on the warning identified by OGE as a "best practice."
This new practice aims to:
With your DAEO's approval, feel free to adopt this practice.
Mark Stone has moved his website. Make sure to add the new address to your favorites (http://afmcethics.wpafb.af.mil/) (link inactive) and correct any links on your websites or in written materials.
Judy Kim has joined the SOCO team from the Office of Government Ethics. She leaves every night with homework assignments to help her learn DoD acronyms and the military rank structure. Soon she will be identifying which of our programs are FUBAR with the best of the "Bird Colonels." Please feel free to send her your regards and a warm welcome (firstname.lastname@example.org). Ken White also joins us for a temporary detail from the Navy. He's learning how to write regulations like the Army and find golf courses like the Air Force. You may welcome him aboard at email@example.com.
DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this advisory is to disseminate relevant information and sources of general guidance, policy and law on Government Ethics issues to the Department of Defense ethics community. Advisories are not intended to be and should not be cited as authoritative guidance, DoD policy, or law.