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By Tom Vanden Brook | USA Today | Aug. 13, 2010
 
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will release the names and roles of retired generals and admirals it hires to advise the military, the No. 2 Defense official announced today in an opinion piece in USA TODAY.

As late as Monday, the Pentagon had considered shielding the names of its "senior mentors" and their roles in consulting active-duty commanders on war games and other exercises.

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn called release of the information "a step toward transparency."

"We believe that these steps address previous concerns about how the program was administered," he wrote.

A USA TODAY investigation found that the mentor program had been run largely unregulated for years.

 

MILITARY MENTORS: Pentagon revises rules

Many retired officers were hired by defense contractors and thus were not subject to government ethics rules preventing conflicts of interest.

The services did not have to identify them, and many mentors made hundreds of dollars per hour while collecting six-figure pensions. Of the 158 retired generals and admirals identified as mentors, 80% had financial ties to defense contractors, including 29 who were full-time executives of defense industry companies.

In April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered that mentors' pay be capped at $179,000 a year and that they be hired as government employees subject to conflict-of-interest rules.

His policy also called for mentors working more than 60 days a year to file public forms disclosing their business interests. Since then, USA TODAY found that the Pentagon has modified Gates' policy. Mentors will be able to file confidential forms about business ties, a decision based on a ruling by the Office of Government Ethics. Mentors will also be eligible for additional annual payments of $50,000 for recruitment, relocation or retention.

House oversight committee Chairman Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., said he's encouraged by the Pentagon's move to promote transparency so the program "protects the taxpayers' interests and the military's need for high level counsel," but he will continue to monitor it.

"This is the right decision," said Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., who has urged the Pentagon to make financial disclosures public. "We are pleased that the Defense Department is ... promoting open government."

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