If there could be anything in the American government that the world has long been admiring, it would always be its military strength. Besides its technology, high product standards, its money, transportation and educational facilities, the world has been looking up at America because of its excellence in the field war and battle. It would seem for the rest of the world that Uncle Sam’s haven offers a smooth-sailing life that people of different colors race and strive to come over.
The big question to dig into is this: “Is America free of corruption and abuse? The answer to the question is a big no. In this paper, we will try to look into the ethical standards of the Federal Government for the purpose of having a benchmark in our evaluation of the ethical deviations inside the organization. Specifically, we will try to evaluate how the Department of Defense go through the process of procurement and will try to pinpoint where the flaw in such process is, resulting to fraud and abuse. This paper has included actual court cases where the Department of Defense was involved.
Through these processes, we will be able to prove that no matter how powerful the policies and laws of the Federal Government, the powerful America cannot control its entire people and prevent them from overriding personal interests and public trust. At the end of this paper, the author hopes to have the readers convinced that Federal laws and policies still have flaws and that should be taken into consideration the soonest possible in order for the American nation and the rest of the world restore its fading trust and confidence over the people behind their security.
President George Bush during his term, probably ensuring the public of their trust towards the government, issued a separate order that would serve as guideline for strict compliance of all personnel directly serving the public. Executive Order 12731 of October 17, 1990, entitled “Principles of Ethical Conduct for Government Officers and Employees” orders each government employee to avoid, prevent and help detect fraud and adhere to ethical standards at all times and situations.
The first section of the EO12731 provides catchy ethical principles which prevent each employee to “hold financial interests that conflict with the conscientious performance of duty” and engage in financial transactions using non-public government information or allow the improper use of such information to further any private interest” (section 101-b and c). Subsections of the order also require each employee to act will full honesty in their duties and most importantly they are not allowed to use public office for private gain.
The Federal Government, based on its laws and policies, has been straightforward and clear as to guiding its public servants to the proper, ethical behavior they should display all the time. So why are there still countless cases and accusations that have been polluting the air of the public servants? What is more frustrating to know is the fact that even in the Department of Defense, many employees and management personnel has been proven to be contributing to such corruption.
The fact of unethical behavior existing in the Federal government is not just an outside observation but is also being recognized by those working inside the organization. In a press release issued by the Ethics Resource Center, it turned out that 52% of the Federal employees are aware and are witnesses of at least one type of misbehavior among their colleagues in the previous year. What is more is that only 30% of federal workers surveyed believe their organizations have well-implemented ethics and compliance programs and that only one in 10 said there is a strong ethical culture in their federal workplace (ERC 2008).
Almost one quarter of public sector employees identifies their work environments as conducive to misconduct — places where there is strong pressure to compromise standards, where situations invite wrongdoing and/or employees’ personal values conflict with the values espoused at work” (Harned, Patricia cited in Smith, Ralph 2008). In reference to the reports mentioned above, this paper made an impression that there might be something inside the Federal government that attracts employees to disregard ethical considerations and to prefer personal interests over public trust.
One thing obvious thing is money. The Federal government, even though have limited financial resources, has probably been the most liquid source of kickbacks for the “bad apples in the barrel. ” It is worth noting that the “U. S. government is the largest consumer of prime contracts” (Lander, Gerald et. al. 2008). Using this mere information, we can clearly conclude that there is enough money for the bad apples on hand. Moreover, it would be very easy for us to extract the fact that the money is more attracting for those inside the procurement departments.
As to federal spending, reports say that procurement contracts have been the fastest-growing part of the discretionary budget. In fact, procurement spending rose 86%, twice as fast as other discretionary spending, which rose 43% between 2000 and 2005. Moreover, such spending composed of 40 cents per dollar of discretionary spending (Ibid). The figures are quite more than attractive and conducive for the bad apples to abuse the trust and authorities vested on them by the public. Despite the fact that trust is held as the most important asset of the government, there is one thing that even the most powerful government cannot control: greed.
It is a human element that the procurement agencies of the government intentionally or unintentionally tolerate. The uncontrollable fact of human greed is even recognized by the Department of Defense. As the spokesman of the Pentagon, Dan Howard has noted, ”The acquisition system is sound but there is no system on the face of this earth that completely obviates the human factor – greed. And that is why we have policing systems” (The New York Times, June 26, 1988). The trust placed by the public over the Department of Defense continue to fade as more and more cases of fraud files in court have resulted to countless convictions.
In Philadelphia alone, the investigation conducted at the Defense Personnel Support Center, resulted in the indictment of 28 individuals and companies on various fraud charges. Such procurement transactions involved textile and apparel industry which have government contracts on uniforms, tents, boots for the armed forces. Here then is the chance for us to ask these questions: What is the purpose of having ethical standards in the federal government? Are these statements of ethical behaviors for the sake of complying with the SEC requirements?
Are the ethical standards unsound or the problem of abuse of power and ethical deviance matters of implementation flaws? Referring particularly to the Department of Defense, it is unlikely that these educated people came short of understanding the ethical concepts. In fact, the department’s publication, Armed Forces Comptroller, the author recognizes the fact that their personnel understand the concept of ethics. The author even stressed that “most of them are required to attend some form of mandatory ethics training” (Benoit, Diana 2006).
The Department of Defense has in fact sound which they consider as forming the ethical foundation of the Dept of Defense personnel. For the purpose of evaluation, let us try to look into these then core concepts. The author stressed that these core concepts “reflect the standards and expectations of military personnel and federal employees throughout the organization” (Ibid). The first of the ethical concepts is honesty which they define as “being truthful and straightforward, regardless of grade or rank.
Honesty is regarded by the department as an ethical concept that goes beyond being trustworthy that it encourages its employees to do not only what is legal but also what is right. Relative to this, abuse of power and betrayal of trust still include acts or attempts of hiding the truth. If the Department of Defense personnel clearly understand this concept, there should have been no reason to remain silent on issues that involves witnessing ethical deviance inside the organization. The ethical concept of honesty goes beyond the issues of actual money laundering.
It encompasses keeping accurate records and completing tasks to the extent of one’s capacity and ability. This means that coming to the office late, going out early; taking breaks more than the allowable time are forms of cheating and thus are unethical behaviors. Cheating the taxpayers could also mean using office supplies for personal activities or lavish consumption of such resources. What is frustrating is that this concept is being disregarded by high ranking employees of the department at a considerably higher level of deception as mentioned above.
Simple cheating in record keeping and of utilizing government resources for personal use can be detected and be prevented at the lower level of organization. However, it would be a different thing to know that cheating is even more practiced at the higher level of management who are expected to be the police in the department. In fact, the report released by the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) during the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005, “the United States recouped more than $1. billion dollars in settlements and judgments pursuing allegations of fraud and in the next fiscal year, the government recovered a record total of more than $3. 1 billion in settlements and judgments from cases involving claims of fraud” (Lander et. al 2008).
Closely related to the ethics of honesty is the concept of integrity which the DOD defines as “doing the right thing the first time and every time. ” In an observation by one of the members of the Special Investigations Unit of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in St. Paul, Special Agent Timothy J. O’Malley recognizes the temptations of fraud in their field.
O’Malley said “police officers face greater temptations than they did just a decade or so ago” (Bladow, J. 1994). As an agent, he can pinpoint the fact that the department handles explosives and illegal drug cases which obviously involve a vast sum of money. Taking O’Malley’s exact words, “a tremendous amount of illicit cash fuels this market. ” Here then lies one uncontrollable factor that we can consider. Money is the central thing that enables the government to run. It is money that is the main reason why people oftentimes compromise integrity and principles with dollars.
Money enables the government to provide services to public. Employees have to be paid with salaries, supplies have to be bought, buildings have to be constructed, communication and transportation facilities have to be purchased and improved. In fact, America will never be the most powerful nation in the world without its money spent in technology, education and basic government facilities. Moreover, America cannot in anyway be respected or shall we say be feared by other nations if not for its military strength. It is a rare instance that this nation is being challenged by the terrorists during the 911 event.
What this paper would like to point out is that even though money is an uncontrollable element in the federal government and particularly in the procurement agency of the department of Defense, transaction processes involving money are very much controllable. In fact, the DOD has sound policies and procedures expressed in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) and Procedures, Guidance, and Information (PGI). In brief, these regulations and guidelines were codified and implemented for procedure compliance purposes especially on procurement transactions undergone by the department.
In its Section 201. 304, FAR requires the “approval of the USD (AT&L) before including in a department/agency or component supplement, or any other contracting regulation document such as a policy letter or clause book, any policy, procedure, clause, or form that has a significant effect beyond the internal operating procedures of the agency; or has a significant cost or administrative impact on contractors or offerors” (Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) and Procedures, Guidance, and Information (PGI) 2004).
Where then lays the procedure flaw- on the approving committee or on those who presents the facts of the procurement contracts? The answer does not solely lies on these precepts. The factors that corrupt integrity in the Department of Defense can be traced in the early stage of the hiring process. “The applicant selection process represents a critical, though sometimes overlooked, component of police ethics programs” (Bonczek, S. and D. Menzel 1994). The authors suggest that the agency should thoroughly conduct interviews, psychological tests, and extensive background checks (Ibid, p. 4).
This would then ensure an applicant’s compatibility with the department’s ethical philosophy. This process can be beneficial in the early identification of “red flags” in an applicant’s personality before he gets into the department. Even if not all of the factors contributing to the unethical behavior of an employee can be detected at this stage, there are considerable preventive measures that are being done here that can prevent a rotten tomato mingle with the good ones inside the basket.
The riskier the world becomes, the higher the standards should the department implement in order to maintain, if not to enhance the integrity of the defenders of the American security. As one observer have noted, it is important that high standards in the hiring process be maintained at all times because of the fact that “diminished standards or incomplete background checks have resulted in the hiring of armed robbers, burglars, and drug dealers as police officers” (D. Holmquist 1993, p. 38). We have to remember that temptations are everywhere and that is one uncontrollable factor inside the department of defense. Because DOD has got much money to offer especially in the procurement transactions, it clearly caters to a tempting environment. However it cannot really be an excuse neither it will justify one’s act of corruption. Deviance to ethical standards is a clear betrayal of trust and a blot in the name of the person, if he even cares enough for it.
A recent study established that fast-talking, outgoing, assertive, and self-confident risk takers represent the best candidates for undercover work. While this may come as no surprise, the study also concluded that these personality traits “are often the same ones predisposing an officer to corruption and psychological distress” (Bladow, p. 12). This suggests that a good apple in the barrel has always the chance of being badly influenced by others.
Strict hiring standards are therefore required to be implemented during the hiring process at all levels. “Police managers must view their hiring standards as components of managing for ethics” (Wells, S. A. 1993, p. 67). Strict adherence to employee selection is a must although diversity in the law enforcement departments must also be considered in order to foster diverse citizenry. “Agencies should not pursue the goal of a diversified workforce at the expense of one of law enforcement’s most valued asset- integrity” (Travis, M. A. 1994, p. 1717).