(ANTIMEDIA) — A former general of the Army National Guard who rose to the role of advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon is under criminal investigation over his close ties to a defense contractor.
Brigadier General Michael Bobeck, whose military service spanned nearly four decades, retired in December of 2016. But that was only after he was fired from his high-ranking position on the Joint Staff months earlier for having an extramarital affair, a violation of military law.
Ousted from his advisory role at the Pentagon in September, Bobeck was reassigned to an administrative position at the National Guard Bureau. He remained there for a handful of months before exiting the military in December. Bobeck’s LinkedIn profile states that the former general has worked as a “business development consultant” for Koniag Information Security Services since January of 2017.
But the affair that grounded Bobeck’s military career is only part of the story. According to USA TODAY, which spoke with officials familiar with the matter, Pentagon investigators have been looking into Bobeck’s connection to a consulting firm that works for Sikorsky, a division of defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin, for nearly a year.
Specifically, investigators are interested in Bobeck’s relationship with an executive at Peduzzi Associates, a consulting firm with offices near the Pentagon. Peduzzi is named in congressional records as a lobbyist for Sikorsky, maker of the Army’s Black Hawk helicopter.
That executive, Joe Ferreira, himself a former military man, has reportedly maintained a friendship with Bobeck that goes back 35 years. And after his friend’s divorce was finalized in September of 2015, Ferreira allowed Bobeck to live in his home, rent-free, for eight months. At the time of accepting Ferreira’s offer, Bobeck had already secured his position at the Pentagon.
The notion of an advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff living in the home of a lobbying group executive is enough to raise eyebrows in itself. But once again, there’s far more to the story.
Documents and emails obtained by USA TODAY show there was communication between Bobeck and Ferreira regarding the future of Sikorsky’s Black Hawks. From a November 2016 report:
“In July 2015, when Bobeck was serving on the Joint Staff, Ferreira sent him an email thread that included entries from several executives from Sikorsky. At the time, allocation of Sikorsky Black Hawks between the Guard and active-duty Army was a contentious issue.
“Ferreira sent Bobeck the email thread from his business account to Bobeck’s personal email address, calling Bobeck’s attention to the emails from Sikorsky executives.”
This essentially means a member of the Joint Staff was being fed inside information — from his friend and Sikorsky executive — at a time when Sikorsky was pushing the Pentagon to purchase more of its product. At a minimum, this raises concerns over a conflict of interest.
What’s more, the emails show that as far back as 2013, Ferreira was working on finding Bobeck a position at Sikorsky following the former general’s retirement. Scott Amey, general counsel for the non-profit Project on Government Oversight, told USA TODAY that this facet of the story alone should have prompted Bobeck to take a step back.
“This raises a number of red flags,” Amey said. “The job offer opens another can of worms. He should have recused himself from any matter the company had an interest in.”
Senator Claire McCaskill of the Armed Services Committee told the outlet in a statement that the situation highlights a longstanding problem:
“We’ve seen far too often the effects of the revolving door between the military and contractors to assume this is just a coincidence, and I’ve got some serious questions for the Pentagon to get to the bottom of these allegations and help ensure our military’s senior leaders continue to be held to the highest standards of integrity.”
The Pentagon did, in fact, open an investigation into the matter of Bobeck living rent-free at Ferreira’s home. However, the Defense Department’s inspector general found that because of the pair’s prior and established friendship, there was no wrongdoing on display.
But the inspector general apparently didn’t speak for everyone. According to USA TODAY’s sources, a separate Pentagon investigation sprang up shortly after the initial ruling. That probe into Bobeck’s potentially criminal dealings is ongoing.
The Project on Government Oversight’s Amey says it should have been this way from the start:
“This case raises a lot of concerns and always deserved more attention. The reports that Brig. Gen. Bobeck received emails from contractors involving Black Hawk helicopters should trigger an ethics review to determine if he was influenced in his government responsibilities and violated the public trust.“
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