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The Defense Industry Initiative: Ethics, self-regulation, and accountability

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In 1986, President Reagan created the Packard Commission, a blue-ribbon commission to investigate defense contracting procurement fraud. The Packard Commission's major recommendation was for defense contractors to adopt ethics programs. Out of this recommendation emerged the Defense Industry Initiative (DII). This paper examines this Initiative and focuses on the DII's six principles. In particular, this paper explores the implications the DII has had with respect to (1) pursuing intra-industry cooperation and setting industry-wide standards; (2) monitoring compliance; (3) the paradox inherent to the DII as a facilitator for industry self-regulation; and, (4) why companies have enthusiastically adopted the directive. This paper concludes that the DII falls short of being an effective method of self-regulation because: (1) it does not achieve complete industry-wide cooperation; (2) it does not establish uniform standards of ethical conduct within the industry; (3) it does not hold the signatory companies accountable for creating a strong system of ethical conduct; and, (4) it does not relieve the organizational and market pressures to be unethical.

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Nancy Kurland is a doctoral student. Her research interests include ethics, values, and moral reasoning in business. She has published in theJournal of Business Ethics.

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Kurland, N.B. The Defense Industry Initiative: Ethics, self-regulation, and accountability. J Bus Ethics 12, 137–145 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00871933

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  • Economic Growth
  • Ethical Conduct
  • Defense Industry
  • Ethic Program
  • Market Pressure