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Secret squirrels squandering tax dollars & other news

One project that attracted high-level scrutiny last year: a program started by DoD senior civilian strategist Michael Furlong that hired professional contractors to scoop up information in Afghanistan. Furlong, an ex-Army officer, said through his attorney Nancy Luque that the project was approved by Army Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and by the newly nominated Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus. – JIEDDO: The Manhattan Project that bombed

In effort to stop roadside bombs, Pentagon hires 1,666 contractors
Peter Cary & Nancy A. Youssef – (Center for Public Integrity & McClatchy Newspapers) – WASHINGTON – March 27, 2011 – Launched in February 2006 with an urgent goal — to save U.S. soldiers from being killed by roadside bombs in Iraq — a small Pentagon agency ballooned into a bureaucratic giant fueled by that flourishing arm of the defense establishment: private contractors.

An examination by the Center for Public Integrity and McClatchy of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization revealed an agency so dominated by contractors that the ratio of contractors to government employees has reached six to one.

A JIEDDO former director, Lt. Gen. Michael Oates, acknowledged that such an imbalance raised the possibility that contractors in management positions could approve proposals or payments for other contractors. Oates said the ratio needed to be reduced.

The 1,900-person agency has spent nearly $17 billion on hundreds of high-tech and low-tech initiatives and had some successes, but it’s failed to significantly improve soldiers’ ability to detect roadside bombs, which have become the No. 1 killer of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. (Click HERE for article)

In the line of duty
Former cop Mark Mitchell’s exploits in the Middle East sound like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster – but has he got what it takes to make it as a politician?

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Misconduct and other missteps in the news

‘Personal misconduct’ tied to 1-star’s firing
By Bruce Rolfsen – Staff writer – January 16, 2011 – A general lost his joint command because he inappropriately touched female subordinates and made off-colored remarks in private and public meetings, according to the Pentagon’s top investigator.

Brig. Gen. Scott Chambers oversaw the 2,400-employee Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support in Philadelphia from October 2009 until his firing Dec. 9 by the head of the DLA, Vice Adm. Alan Thompson.

Thompson cited “personal misconduct” uncovered by the Defense Department Inspector General as the reason for Chambers’ dismissal. The inspector general had investigated Chambers, who has 27 years of service, after Troop Support staff members filed complaints against him. The report does not specify how many workers contacted the inspector general, but statements in the report indicate at least two made complaints.

Chambers has declined requests for comment twice, immediately after his dismissal and after Air Force Times obtained the inspector general’s findings Dec. 27 through a Freedom of Information Act request. He is now serving as a special assistant to the commander of the Air Force District of Washington, D.C., while Air Force Secretary Michael Donley reviews his case.

The 14-page report, based on interviews with 23 witnesses and Chambers, details several instances where Chambers — either through remarks or gestures — made the men and women under his supervision uncomfortable.

Military officials heavily redacted the report, including the names of the witnesses and complainants as well as a page of allegations that Chambers was cleared of. (Click HERE for article)

How Did a Marine Corps Food Contract Grow to $1.2 Billion? 
Noel Brinkerhoff – January 15, 2011 – The Department of Defense is on the hook for paying more than $1 billion just to feed the U.S. Marine Corps, now that a contract with a France-based company has swelled with added costs.

What was supposed to cost $881 million is now looking like $1.2 billion, making the deal with catering company Sodexo the largest-ever domestic military food service contract in procurement history.

Again and again modifications were made to the Sodexo arrangement, causing a 36% increase in costs. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has questioned whether all the changes were necessary.  (Click HERE for article)

2 men sentenced to probation for helping unravel $300 million Pentagon ammunition fraudBy The Associated Press (CP) – MIAMI – January 13, 2011 – Two men who helped investigators unravel fraud in a $300 million Pentagon ammunition contract have been sentenced to probation instead of prison.  U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard in Miami agreed Thursday with prosecutors that David Packouz and Alexander Podrizki were vital in helping the U.S. convict two key people. Packouz is on probation for 14 months and Podrizki for 10 months. They could have spent years in prison. 

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Selectively Enforcing MEJA and other news

SA man embroiled in bizarre US court case
Andrew Trench & Julian Rademeyer – Johannesburg – December 26, 2010 – A South African contractor working in Afghanistan has been arrested and spirited away across the world under a controversial United States law.

Sean Brehm, 44, arrived in the US on Tuesday and is being held near ­Washington.

Brehm, who ran a VIP ­protection company in Cape Town and who had been working in Afghanistan since October last year, was arrested at the ­Kandahar Air Force Base last month after allegedly stabbing and severely wounding a British contractor in a dispute.

At the time, Brehm was ­employed as a travel consultant for US department of defence contractor DynCorp. (Click HERE for article)

From the Pentagon to the private sector
In large numbers, and with few rules, retiring generals are taking lucrative defense-firm jobs
Mike Shedlock – WASHINGTON – December 26, 2010 – An hour after the official ceremony marking the end of his 35-year career in the Air Force, General Gregory “Speedy’’ Martin returned to his quarters to swap his dress uniform for golf attire. He was ready for his first tee time as a retired four-star general.

But almost as soon as he closed the door that day in 2005 his phone rang. It was an executive at Northrop Grumman, asking if he was interested in working for the manufacturer of the B-2 stealth bomber as a paid consultant. A few weeks later, Martin received another call. This time it was the Pentagon, asking him to join a top-secret Air Force panel studying the future of stealth aircraft technology.

Martin was understandably in demand, having been the general in charge of all Air Force weapons programs, including the B-2, for the previous four years.

He said yes to both offers.

In almost any other realm it would seem a clear conflict of interest — pitting his duty to the US military against the interests of his employer — not to mention a revolving-door sprint from uniformed responsibilities to private paid advocacy.

But this is the Pentagon where, a Globe review has found, such apparent conflicts are a routine fact of life at the lucrative nexus between the defense procurement system, which spends hundreds of billions of dollars a year, and the industry that feasts on those riches. And almost nothing is ever done about it. (Click HERE for article)

ON WATCH: Soft on Corruption
Stephen Davis – December 26, 2010 – Three weeks ago in this column I wrote about the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) raid on the offices of Halliburton in Lagos and the arrest of company officials. The arrests were made in relation to the alleged payment by Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., (KBR), a Halliburton subsidiary until 2007, of $180 million in bribes to senior Nigerian government officials between 1994 and 2004 in an effort to secure $6 billion in contracts for the Bonny Island liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.

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