Air Force leaders reinforce senior adviser hiring guidance

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Air Force senior leaders here recently completed a year-long comprehensive review of the requirements, contracting processes and tasks performed by senior advisers.

While the review did not find any ethical or legal concerns, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz want to ensure that Air Force practices are transparent and codified to avoid even the perception of impropriety.

Senior advisers are typically retired general officers, ambassadors or former members of the senior executive service. They provide services to the Air Force under a government contract as a prime contractor, subcontractor or contractor employee.

"More consistent contracting and oversight mechanisms must be institutionalized to ensure that we not only follow all laws and regulations, but that we avoid the perception of impropriety, to protect both the Air Force and our senior advisers," Secretary Donley stated in a memo to commanders of Air Force major commands and directors on the Air Staff sent out in early November.

To ensure fair and open competitive processes and good stewardship of funding, senior leaders have directed development of a senior adviser steering group slated to meet at least twice annually. The intent is to provide a more synergistic and strategic approach in implementation.

Additionally, the Air Force Audit Agency has been tasked to provide annual audits of senior adviser contracts and processes. This effort will begin in late fiscal 2010, with the results briefed to the secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force.

An initial set of senior adviser hiring guidelines were provided to Air Force leaders as an attachment to the memo. Requirements for services, the guidance states, will be defined functionally and approved by the major command or deputy chief of staff for Headquarters Air Force functions.

The guidelines also direct hiring officials to expand the use of financial disclosures to prevent any real or perceived conflicts of interest. The guidance prohibits the use of "by name" requests and establishes that, whenever possible, standard for compensation for services will be fair and reasonable based on market forces. Advice, counseling, assistance, training or education based on skills, knowledge or special expertise acquired through previous leadership or work experience for the Department of Defense are valuable to the service, according to Secretary Donley, and the goal is effective oversight of these valuable resources.

"Senior advisers can provide a wealth of knowledge and experience that the Air Force can leverage as we tackle the many challenges we face," the secretary notes in the memo. "With your personal involvement and the implementation of more standardized processes, we can more effectively manage this important capability."