Friendships and Professional Relationships

FACT: The General Accounting Office has lifted a week-old ban imposed on IBM’s ability to win any new federal contracts (or work on new task orders for existing contracts).  But, according to ComputerWorld, “IBM still faces an investigation by the EPA as well as a federal grand jury probe over a bid for a contract at the agency in 2006.” The ban had been imposed because of significant problems in the process surrounding the $84 million Environmental Protection Agency contract, which the company lost last year. 

ANALYSIS: Now that the ban has been lifted, I am glad to relay the news — not only because I blogged about it when imposed but also because I admire IBM and its work for government. But the circumstances made me think about my own current set of relationships with former colleagues in the federal government.

According to the AP’s account of the agreement struck with IBM leading to the ban’s lifting, which I read in Enterprise Security Today, “Several IBM employees allegedly obtained protected information from an EPA employee, ‘which IBM officials knew was improperly acquired, and used the information during its negotiations to improve its chance of winning a contract,’ according to the agreement. Such an act violated federal procedures… IBM has placed five individuals on administrative leave pending its own internal investigation and any federal probe.”

I don’t have more to say about the issue per se, other than riffing on that human aspect of the affair to make a personal comment about my own experience since leaving the federal government’s payroll last December….

At the Defense Intelligence Agency, I was a DISL, or “Defense Intelligence Senior Level,” which is analogous to the SIS or SES service at other agencies. When sworn in by DIA Director Mike Maples in a Pentagon ceremony, I was struck that he made a point of announcing to those gathered, including my family: “This is an important step, signified by the rank Lewis has achieved – he is now the civilian equivalent of a General or Admiral.” My father, who served bravely as a B-17 pilot over Europe in World War II, was over-the-moon proud.

Now, because I reached that rank, I came under several federal government guidelines, good ones developed over the years to ensure rectitude and transparent stewardship of the people’s money. While a government employee, I had to fill out financial disclosure forms which GS-15s or below didn’t have to file; I was always happy to do so, if embarassed that I didn’t have millions in investments to report.

After I left government, other restrictions kicked in, notably a one-year restriction from my dealing with my former agency or its employees on behalf of my new employer (Microsoft).

Now, one thing that people who know me realize is that I’m a people-person.  I was at DIA for only four years, but I made some very good friends – I couldn’t help it, that agency is full of phenomenal people who are hiding their keen intelligence and technical wizardry under a cloak of secrecy.

Once I joined Microsoft, however, I had a dilemma: I had to become cleaner than Caesar’s wife, and yet I didn’t like cutting contact off with people.  I didn’t want to end up like Darlene Druyan, of course. But I realize and support the stringency of the law’s letter – and its intent.

So I’ve been very hands-off from my erstwhile friends, the people I worked with day and night for four years, in DC and Florida and Europe and Korea and Baghdad and around the world…

It’s been very difficult, and I’m never sure that my old colleagues understand my strict adherence to the no-contact rule. I know that they’ve seen over the years people with less stringent approaches.  But I’ve had to forego things like a long-planned outing to the Washington Nationals opener in the new stadium, and some other social-networking opportunities.  Content-free LinkedIn connections only get you so far….

My one consolation: it’s already April!  My handcuffs will be unlocked before too long. Then it’s back to my friendships.  Maybe even back to Bolling AFB’s infamous Slip Inn once in a while…

4 Responses

  1. you don’t call, you don’t write….

  2. Yeah, thought you didnt love us anymore. Wish you would have written that earlier, I was about to get a new idol lol. Well now that i know whats going on so your off the hook, but come December I want to hear from you Mr. Be blessed and take care of yourself.

  3. Lorenzo, I love you man! Spread the word that I’m not a total jerk🙂

  4. Glad to see that you’re counting the days until spring arrives and Friday lunches at the Slip Inn. I’m looking forward to the shackles being removed.

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