The New York Times has a long piece this weekend that chronicles the exodus of senior homeland security officials to the private sector in the last 2-3 years. The story includes with it a comprehensive list of senior officials who have headed off to the private sector, and maps out senior-level departures against the DHS org chart.
The story mentions a number of loopholes in government ethics rules that former DHS employees have been able to utilize to their advantage; these loopholes should be closed immediately. And the story is a symptom of what I think is the real problem at DHS: the paucity of career employees, and instead the over-reliance on political employees and contractors acting as pseudo-employees. That workforce strategy makes this outcome predictable.
But that said, I don’t fault any person’s decisions to leave DHS, which is undoubtedly a high-stress place to work, and move to the private sector. It should also be noted that many of the people on the NY Times’ list worked in the private sector prior to joining DHS, and the Department benefited from their business experience – so it’s also natural that these same people would go back to the private sector. Finally, I’m not sure if the “revolving door” swings faster in DHS than in other mission-oriented parts of the federal government, such as DOD…the story provides no basis for comparison.