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Levin Moves To Block Nomination Of Hight To Defense IT Post

Adm. Elizabeth Hight.
by Shaun Waterman
Washington (UPI) Jun 23, 2008
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., has blocked the Pentagon's nominee to head the Defense Information Systems Agency, because her husband is a senior executive at the nation's No. 3 defense contractor and the perceived conflicts of interest made the nomination "untenable."

A senior congressional staffer told United Press International that during a routine investigation into the background of the nominee, Adm. Elizabeth Hight, committee staff noted that her husband, retired Air Force Gen. Gary Salisbury, is vice president of business development and sales for Northrop Grumman's mission systems sector.

The staffer said there was no suggestion that Hight was unqualified, or of any actual impropriety, but that Levin viewed the nomination as "untenable, in view of the appearance of conflict of interest."

Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed the nomination had been withdrawn, "to prevent any perceived conflict of interest due to her husband's current position within the defense industry."

Hight, the agency's deputy director, was slated to replace her boss, the current director, Gen. Charles Croom, when he retires July 22. Ryder said she "continues to do an outstanding job and will remain in her position."

"A new nominee will be announced in the near future," he said.

The Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA, is the IT and telecommunications service provider for the whole Department of Defense, agency spokesman Jon Anderson told UPI.

"We buy or develop and engineer and install and maintain" communications and computer systems for the Pentagon, he said, and provide some "enterprise-level systems" -- like data centers -- for the individual services.

In Fiscal Year 2007, the agency made over 31,000 contract awards worth $3.1 billion, Anderson said. Many of these procurements are in areas where Northrop would be a natural contender, according to industry sources.

"This seems like a slam-dunk definition of a conflict of interest," wrote Allan Holmes, the executive editor of Nextgov.com, which first broke the story. "It's hard to see Hight and Salisbury not having to explain over and over again the(ir) uncomfortable relationship to the IT industry and even (Capitol) Hill."

Croom, the agency's current director, told NextGov.com he regretted that Hight will not succeed him, because she "would have been the most qualified director we have ever had."

Croom was not available for interview Monday afternoon, and the agency said it had no comment about the nomination.

One defense official told UPI there was "a sense of real disappointment" among the agency's 6,600 staff "because she's an exceptional person. She knows so much about the environment (the agency is) working in. żż She is familiar with the programs" it is running.

"Especially when the country is about to go through a change of leadership żż and you are fightng a war," the official added, "you want that continuity of leadership."

Hight is currently one of 11 two-star rear admirals, out of a total of 116, according to U.S. Navy spokesman Lt. Clay Doss. Her promotion to the director's job would have made her a three-star vice admiral, of which there are currently only two women, out of a total of 34.

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SKorea arrests five Internet firm chiefs
Seoul (AFP) June 17, 2008
South Korean prosecutors said Tuesday they had arrested five local Internet company chiefs for violating copyright laws, as one of the firms claimed the move was politically motivated.







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