Government Procurement Program Addresses Ethical Dilemmas in the Global Defense Industry

October 16, 2023
GW Law faculty in the moot courtroom

GW Law's Government Procurement Law Program co-hosted an event with the Defense Industry Initiative on Business Ethics Conduct (DII) to celebrate the publication of a new Oxford University Press book, Ethical Dilemmas in the Global Defense Industry. The book and event are the culmination of several years of innovative research spurred by a 2015 conference hosted by Professor Claire Finkelstein, Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law, where many of the authors first convened to discuss salient issues in ethics and compliance. Several GW Law faculty members contributed chapters to the book, including Jeffrey & Martha Kohn Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; Nash & Cibinic Professor of Government Procurement Law Steven L. Schooner, Associate Dean for Government Procurement Law Studies; Government Contracts Advisory Council Distinguished Professorial Lecturer in Government Contracts Law, Practice & Policy Jessica Tillipman, Lynn David Research Professor in Government Procurement Law Christopher R. Yukins, and Professorial Lecturer in Law, Dan Schoeni, who also co-edited the book. 

DII was a natural partner for this event, given their mission to promote the “advancement of a culture of ethical conduct in every company that provides products and services through government contracting.” Noting the parallels between the Ethical Dilemmas book and DII’s advancement of ethical standards in the defense industry, DII Working Group Chair, Kim Kaminski (BAE Systems) explained, “Ethical Dilemmas in the Global Defense Industry highlights the need for transparency, accountability, and responsible decision-making. The Defense Industry Initiative serves as a beacon for fostering those principles and promoting the highest standards of ethical behavior amongst defense contractors.”

“We were honored to partner with DII for this important event,” said Dean Tillipman. “DII plays a critical role in elevating ethics and compliance best practices for the entire defense industry, so it was great to work together on an event dedicated to ethics issues impacting our field.”

The day began with opening remarks by GW Law’s Senior Associate Dean Schooner, who spoke about the importance of organizations like DII in promoting high standards of ethical business conduct in the defense industry. He was joined by Professor Finkelstein, who chronicled the book’s origin story for the audience and celebrated the strides made in the ethics and compliance field as a result of leading experts coming together for the 2015 conference, and again to produce the Ethical Dilemmas book.

The event then featured a panel discussion about emerging ethics and compliance issues in the global defense industry. Speakers included GW Law’s Associate Dean Tillipman, Professor Chris Yukins, and Professor Dan Schoeni (Air Force), as well as DII Working Group Chair, Kim Kaminski, BAE and co-editor of the Ethical Dilemmas book, Tobias Vestnar, Geneva Centre for Security Policy. The panel discussed topics ranging from AI and emerging technology in defense procurement, to conflicts of interest and global ethics and compliance best practices. The panelists also reflected on the issues that initially inspired the Ethical Dilemmas book and identified issues in the field requiring further exploration.

Following the panel discussion, attendees moved to GW Law’s Tasher Great Room for a keynote luncheon, generously sponsored by DII. Alice Eldridge, JD ’91, senior vice president, General Counsel and Secretary of BAE Systems, Inc., provided the keynote address, where she touched on important matters relating to the global defense industry, including public perceptions of the defense industry in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. She also provided a fascinating historical account of the creation of DII and its international counterpart, the International Forum on Business Ethical Conduct (IFBEC). She concluded with remarks relating to ongoing ethics and compliance challenges facing the global defense industry, including cybersecurity, sustainability, and foreign military sales.

When asked to reflect on his takeaways from the day, Senior Associate Dean Schooner noted, “the issues discussed in the book and bandied about at the program, which strike at the very heart of how a representative democracy within a market economy assures for the nation's defense, are as difficult as they are thought-provoking. But it was great for our community of scholars and students and alumni to have the opportunity to think about and engage with global experts, specifically the thought leaders within DII, in an open forum on these topics.”

DII Coordinator, Teddie Arnold, reinforced this view: “DII highly values its partnership with GW Law, and this event reflected that – an enlightening and important discussion examining global ethics and compliance programs and best practice sharing in the defense industry, bringing together practitioners, scholars and academics.”

“As the GW Law Government Procurement Law Program continues to highlight ethics and compliance issues impacting the defense industry in our academic offerings, scholarship, and programming, we look forward to future collaborations with DII,” said Associate Dean Jessica Tillipman.

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