Gilpatric and General Dynamics: Some Unanswered Questions

When and if the McClellan committee reopens its hearings into the TFX affair and finally makes a report upon it, the role played by Gilpatric needs to be clarified. In the still incomplete record, his candor as a public official hardly matches his skill as a witness. At his confirmation hearing as Deputy Secretary of Defense on January 17, 1961, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he made no mention of his relations with General Dynamics but said only that his firm “has served many large companies, small companies, that have done business with the Defense Department” and that on confirmation he would retire from the firm “and I will have no financial or other interest in it, except that I will be paid sums of money that will represent my interest in work that was done before I left the firm; not large sums of money [italics added] but sums that represent the unbilled and uncollected work of the firm for past periods.”

Somewhat fuller disclosure came two years later when he was called as a witness in the McClellan committee investigation of the TFX contract, as the following excerpt shows:

Mr. Jerome S. Adlerman [general counsel of the committee]: Mr. Gilpatric, you mentioned in this statement here that there were small sums of money that were to be paid to you. As a matter of fact, the total amount that would come to you would be $209,000, which is about $41,000 short of a quarter of a million dollars.

Senator Muskie (D. Maine): I correct counsel. He did not say small sums of money; he said “not large sums of money” which is a relative term. Small is much more precise.

Mr. Adlerman: It happens to be $41,000 less than a quarter of a million dollars. [TFX hearings, Part X, p. 2602]

Mr. Gilpatric had left the Cravath firm once before to do a tour of duty in the Pentagon. In 1951, after twenty years with Cravath, he became Under Secretary of the Air Force for two years. On his first appearance before the McClellan committee he testified that, after he left the Air Force and returned to the Cravath firm in 1953, “I made it a matter of my personal policy never to represent any client in any dealings with the Defense Department. I did do certain work for Boeing, and for General Dynamics, but I had no direct dealings with the Defense Department. That was somewhat of a penalty to me and to my firm.” [TFX hearings, Part II, p. 396, Italics added.] Since Boeing and General Dynamics were the two down-to-the-wire rivals for the TFX contract, this implied that there could hardly be a conflict of interest since he had represented both.

But ten months later, when Mr. Gilpatric appeared before the committee again, and after its investigators had been into the Cravath files, it turned out that all he had done for Boeing was to appear as a witness…

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