James C. KingAfter a career leading some of the premier intelligence agencies at the Pentagon, U.S. Army Lt. General, King retired and almost immediately went to work for MZM Inc., the defense contractor at the heart of one of the biggest corruption scandals in decades.
The company’s founder and former CEO Mitchell Wade pleaded guilty in February 2006 to committing bribery and fraud in winning defense contracts from sensitive security and intelligence agencies worth hundreds of millions of dollars. King is now under investigation for helping Wade make some of the illegal campaign contributions that kept MZM awash in lucrative defense contracts.
In 1998, King helped the Army create the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, which analyzes satellite information for the Department of Homeland Security. (It is now called the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.) King joined MZM in 2001, and the company almost immediately began winning huge defense contracts. In 2002, MZM won a $38 million contract for classified defense technology services.
That same year, while working as an MZM executive, King also worked as a consultant to the committee that created the Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) agency, which specializes in protecting the Pentagon from espionage. One of the people King advised on that committee was Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who in 2006 replaced Porter Goss as the head of the CIA.
CIFA ultimately gave out more than $1 billion in private contracts, and MZM was a one of its earliest and most frequent beneficiaries. As soon as the agency was created, Rep. Duke Cunningham – who is serving an 8-year jail sentence in part for accepting more than $1 million in bribes from Wade – earmarked, or reserved, $6 million of its budget for MZM. Ultimately, CIFA would give out more than $1 billion to private contractors in its first four years, and MZM was usually at the front of the line, in large part thanks to King.
In 2005, King was a member of the Silverman-Robb commission, which recommended giving CIFA a larger role in fighting terrorism. MZM’s CIFA contracts continue to be the subject of investigations by the Department of Defense and the Justice Department.
King and his wife gave $12,000 to the campaign of Rep. Virgil Goode, a Republican from Virginia who used his seat on the House Appropriations Committee to create a program for scrutinizing foreign companies who bid for U.S. defense contracts. Although the Pentagon did not seek such a program, Congress approved Goode’s request to create it in 2003. MZM got the contract to run the center, and opened it in Goode’s district. In 2005, Goode earmarked another $9 million for the center. It closed in August 2006, when the Pentagon canceled its contract.
Once the allegations of bribery surfaced, Wade was forced to resign from MZM, but King survived the scandal. Another company with scores of defense contracts, Veritas Capital, bought MZM in 2005 and renamed it Athena Innovative Solutions.
King is now Athena’s CEO and under his leadership the company continues to work on many of MZM’s former defense contracts. It website currently names among its clients CIFA, the National Ground Intelligence Center, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (formerly NIMA), and the National Security Agency.
King is also on the board of directors of Gestalt, LLC, a company that recently won more than $50 million in military IT contracts.