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THE ISSUES

Originally Published: 11/14/2007

GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING

By The Issue Wonk

 

The Weekly Wonk sets out the news of the week and, by reference, ties in past events to add more information and understanding to each new event.  Usually this is easily done.  However, a series of recent events regarding government contracting have made it very difficult to “connect the dots” in the format of The Weekly Wonk.  I believe these events are important enough to warrant more explanation.

 

On 10/20/07 I reported that Charles Riechers, the second highest ranking procurement officer in the United States Air Force, killed himself.  His suicide occurred just 2 weeks after it came out that Commonwealth Research Institute (CRI) had given Riechers a “do nothing” job while he was waiting for confirmation of his appointment.  (10/6/07)  His $26,788 CRI salary didn’t rise to the levels of fraud, waste, and abuse we’ve seen lately – like the $6 billion in contracts that are being investigated for waste and fraud1 and the $9 billion in Iraqi funds that vanished during L. Paul Bremer’s reign over the Iraqi Coalition Authority.2  However, the Riechers story tells us a lot about the corruption of government contracting currently being conducted by the U.S. government.

 

Riechers’ Pentagon job of managing a $30 billion procurement budget had been previously held by Darleen Druyun.  In 2004 Druyun was sentenced to 9 months in prison for securing jobs for herself, her daughter, and her son-in-law at Boeing while favoring Boeing with billions of dollars of contracts.3  Her Pentagon position was vacant from that date in 2004 until Riechers’ appointment.

 

Unfortunately, the full story of Druyun’s corruption probably never will be known, although the corruption of elected officials has been noted (10/28/06) as have been the sweetheart deals provided Boeing (4/22/06) and Raytheon (9/9/06) and the wasted money when the Pentagon outsourced its contracting to the Interior Department (12/30/06).  The Pentagon’s Inspector General at the time, Joseph Schmitz (10/6/07), appointed by George W. Bush, gave a report to Congress that was full of holes.  Dozens of the report’s passages were redacted, as were the names of many White House officials in the report’s e-mail evidence on the Boeing contracts.  According to Allen4:

 

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) said he was “somewhat perplexed” that Schmitz had left the interviews [of Pentagon officials] to underlings.  He expressed incredulity that [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and [Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz had nothing relevant to say about what the chairman called “the most significant defense procurement mismanagement in contemporary history.

 

. . .

 

Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), the committee’s top Democrat, called the report “totally inadequate.”  He complained that too many e-mails from and about Bush’s aides had been blanked out, even from the classified copy that senators could review in a secure room.  “Critical gaps in this report have placed a cloud over it – indeed, over the inspector general’s office,” he said.

 

The report is riddled with redactions of material concerning White House officials, lawmakers, Boeing executives and lower-ranking Pentagon officials who had roles in the lease deal.  “There is no legal authority that would conceivably justify the redaction of this material from the report,” Levin said.

 

White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. has previously been identified as playing a role in the negotiations.  White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Card had served “simply as an honest broker to make sure that all views were represented and to make sure that it was completed in a timely matter, because it was relating to a national security need that was pressing.”

 

What is truly interesting is that when Schmitz was delivering his redacted report, he had already secured a new job as the Chief Operating Officer of the Prince Group (10/6/07), the parent company of Blackwater, U.S.A.5  Prince and his family have strong ties to Republican candidates, having donated hundreds of thousands of dollars.6  Blackwater’s lobbyist is Paul Behrends who also has as one of his clients the First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Company,7 the builder of the new American embassy in Iraq.8  (4/22/06, 7/7/07, 7/28/07, 10/15/07)

 

Government contracting has gotten so bad it’s been dubbed a “Shadow Government.”  (6/24/06, 6/30/07)  These blatant grabs for personal enrichment and campaign financing translate into huge expenditures for the Iraq occupation and re-building, for which you and I are paying and for which Iraqi citizens are living unbearable lives, if they are still alive at all.  The October issue of Vanity Fair said that, to date, the U.S. has “spent twice as much in inflation-adjusted dollars to rebuild Iraq as it did to rebuild Japan – an industrialized country 3 times Iraq’s size, 2 of whose cities had been incinerated by atomic bombs.”9  Have you seen any legislation to get these practices under control?

 

__________

 

1  Schmitt, Eric & Thompson, Ginger.  $6 Billion in Contracts Reviewed, Pentagon Says. The New York Times, September 21, 2007.

 

2  CNN.com.  Audit:  U.S. Lost Track of $9 Billion in Iraq Funds.  January 31, 2005.

 

3  Cahlink, George.  Ex-Pentagon Procurement Executive Gets Jail Time.  Government Executive, October 1, 2004.

 

4  Allen, Mike.  Details on Boeing Deal Sought.  Washington Post, June 8, 2005.

 

5  Witte, Griff.  Pentagon’s IG Takes Job at Contractor.  Washington Post, September 1, 2005.

 

6  Malcolm, Andrew.  Grilled Blackwater Chairman a major GOP donor.  ChicagoTribune.com, October 29, 2007.

 

7  The Hill Staff.  Bottom Line.  The Hill, September 4, 2007.

 

8   Strobel, Warren. P.  Even Sprinkler Systems Fail at U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.  McClatchy Newspapers, October 6, 2007.

 

9  Bartlett, Donald L. and Steele, James E.  The Spoils of War.  Vanity Fair, October, 2007.

 

© The Issue Wonk, 2007

 

 

 

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