The U.S. Air Force is barring one of its own retired top generals – one who often appears on CNN to advocate for the use of airpower -- from conducting business with the government until early 2016. Investigators found he used his influence to keep a dying intelligence program alive, countermanding rules that require senior officers to stay clear of such involvements after their uniformed service.

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula has long been respected for his experience in strategy and war planning. He is often turned to as an expert on aviation and military technology by television programs and news outlets, including Aviation Week. He was instrumental in planning the air campaign in Operation Desert Storm and finished his career in the position of deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). As such, he oversaw policy matters for the chief of staff related to ISR during a crucial time as commanders in Afghanistan pushed for more surveillance assets. But it is what followed that got him into trouble.

Deptula is now barred from engaging the government on business matters until February 2016 after what Air Force Deputy General Counsel Randy Grandon describes as “particularly egregious” breaches of post-employment rules. The debarment impacts both Deptula as an individual and his consulting business; it does not affect his work at the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, a nonprofit advocacy group, which does not have contracts with the service, a source close to the investigation says.

After retiring from his ISR post in October 2010, MAV 6, a small company, hired Deptula to be its CEO in February 2011.  The Army issued MAV 6 its first contract worth $49.6 million in August of 2011.

And, the general -- widely known for his gusto -- was vocal in his support of the project in the press and in private communications with senior officials in the Pentagon despite ambivalence in the Air Force about whether to continue it.

The original contract was worth about $49.6 million; another award was provided by the Air Force in March 2011 and was not to exceed $86.2 million. The source close to the investigation says the Blue Devil II functionality contract –- which provided a unique “sensor fusion” among various intelligence collectors -– was already terminated. The ongoing work was for the airship only, a nuance that this source says allowed for Deptula to have some communications with government officials on the technology and capability.

The Air Force general counsel’s office, however, says in a Nov. 12 debarment memorandum posted on the Air Force’s website that after being told to stop sending communications to service officials imploring them to keep the Blue Devil II airship project alive, Deptula persisted. Despite a temporary reprieve in pushing Air Force officials, he turned to writing to the undersecretaries of the Army, Navy and senior officials in the Air National Guard for support. Deptula “was told not once, but five times, by the OGC [Office of General Counsel] [that the law] restricted him from representing Company A [MAV 6] on the Blue Devil Block 2 program back to United States Government representatives with an intent to influence.”

Deptula is appealing the ruling and says he has acted in the interest of the United States. "I strongly disagree with the Air Force General Counsel decision. It contains inaccuracies and selectively excludes several important facts,” he tells Aviation Week. “I intend to appeal it. As you well know, my actions have always been made in the best interests of the United States."

At issue was that as the deputy chief of staff for ISR, he advocated for the Blue Devil II airship project, the debarment memo says. Blue Devil II was intended to be an airship housing a variety of imagery and signals intelligence sensors and contain an unprecedented ability to fuse the data into actionable intelligence. As a manager in this influential position at the inception of the Blue Devil II project, the general counsel’s office directed him to avoid post-retirement activities that built upon his decisions in uniform for personal gain.

The source close to the investigation says that Deptula’s post as the deputy chief of staff did not include contract oversight and thus should not affect his ability to work on the project after retirement.

The Air Force says that the debarment is not a result of Deptula’s active duty service. The service opened its Office of Special Investigation review into the matter in September 2011.

“The Air Force has very clear standards governing acceptable behavior. Where alleged inconsistencies exist, inquiries or investigations take place to determine if wrongdoing is present. Each individual maintains personal accountability for their actions,” according to spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Karns. “Contractors wishing to conduct business or associate with the Air Force need to subscribe to established standards of behavior. No person is above the Air Force core values or established standards.”

The source close to the investigation claims Deptula requested meetings with the general counsel on proper interactions on the Blue Devil II program six times and was refused. The debarment memorandum includes only “selective facts,” this source says.

Deptula is agreeing to pay $125,000 to the Department of Justice over the matter, although he admits no wrongdoing, the general counsel memo notes.

Deptula was also found to have 125 classified documents on his personal laptop –- 10 labeled “Secret,” 14 labeled “Top Secret” and one with the high protection of “Secret, Compartmented Information.” Grandon accepted Deptula’s explanation that the illegal presence of these documents on his laptop was unbeknownst to him. So, the debarment is related solely to his conduct in lobbying for the Blue Devil II project and his unwillingness to heed Air Force general counsel advice to cease those activities.