Watchdog groups say it is that last assignment -- promoting a futuristic-looking, high-tech gun for a company that may have been trying to catch the eye of military purchasing officials -- that they find troubling.
"It's one of these basic things that you see in Washington constantly, which is access for contractors to help them get a foot in the door," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight, a non-partisan group that seeks to expose abuses of power, mismanagement, and government waste.
Brian said she suspects the company saw an opportunity to put its little-known product in view of one of the most powerful voices on military policy in the country. "I think it's honestly pretty brilliant on the part of the company," she said. "But it's one of these sad things that we're fighting so hard. It's an uneven playing field. That is not how a contract should be decided."
Broadwell appeared on a company promotional video once before – in 2006 – though back then she was billed not as an expert but merely as a demonstrator. She fires the company's weapon, but never says a word. Broadwell met Petraeus at Harvard in April 2006.
"On the individual fighter, reducing weight is critical because of fatigue and stress," she says. "Weight reduction can greatly improve the efficiency of a firearm. It allows the trooper to carry it further, obviously, for the individuals out there on the battlefield. And that trooper should have more confidence in that system he is carrying, ideally."