One common thread running through my prior post and the comments thereto, the one on using the Passport Card to better control our borders, is the issue of “privacy”. Discussing such concerns invariably raises the question of motivation for such privacy concerns. On a moral scale of 1 to 10, these might run the gamut from stage fright or agoraphobia (score 1?) at the lower end of the scale to embarrassment (score 5?), to off-shore tax evasion (score 10?).
Today I read online what I thought was an interesting example of a privacy concern by a group of 7 retired admirals and generals. They have been receiving up to $440 an hour to give our military leaders “advice” on war plans and weapons systems, but all seven have now decided to resign from those lucrative jobs because the Secretary of Defense decided to require them to disclose their assets and business ties as a condition of employment. He also decided to cap their pay at a mere $179,000. The reason given for their en-masse resignations? “. . . the disclosure requirement was too
intrusive .. . “ Also interesting to me was that the names of the shy seven were not disclosed.
The kind of job these people had is called a “military mentor”, an appellation that I find rather strange in this context. My computer dictionary defines a MENTOR as “an experienced and trusted adviser”, but adds more specifically, “an experienced person in a company, college or school who trains and counsels new employees or students.” So, I must ask some rather obvious questions about all this.
- Do we have an insufficient number of flag officers?
- Are our active duty flag officers too young or inexperienced?
- Might there be some conflict of interest when, as in this case, such mentors are also paid by defense contractors who wish to sell weapons systems?
- Since these mentors were being paid with public funds, why were their positions not made public knowledge? Does the public have a right to know how their taxes are being spent?
Just as a matter of interest I found one web source relative to question 1. above. It cites the Congressional Budget Office as a source and says that the ratio of officers to enlisted during WWII was about 1:10 and that from 1990 to the date of the report in 2000 it had slipped from 1:6 to 1:5.
Relative to the privacy question in general I noted recently in USA Today that the SEC, by the narrowest of margins (3 to 2) is giving shareholders of large public companies the right to register their opinions on executive pay at least once every three years. Gosh, those poor executives are going to be living in a financial fish-bowl I guess. So much for privacy. What’s a Gordon Gekko to do?
This post is just a start for me because I admit I am somewhat at sea over the privacy subject. It’s a full spectrum, and naturally Wikipedia has a page on the general subject (which I haven’t read yet). Surely some privacy is needed, but public disclosure is obviously necessary for financial accountability, law enforcement and moral reasons. I look forward to any comments you may have on the subject, dear reader.