What’s $50 Million Among Friends?

Defense contracting seems especially chummy of late. Who knew routine purchases would become fraught with such abuse it would become the seedy playground for conmen and miscreants. In a world where officers are assumed to act with honesty, a bunch of these guys seem to be conducting themselves as the thugs and the not-so-petty thieves they are. 

Some of the most recent examples involve the much-beleaguered Air Force. After the Boeing debacle in which a top Air Force official steered contracts Boeing’s way, we’re not sure how they didn’t figure out they had a problem. In this latest (but probably not final) chapter, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI have started issuing subpoenas in a case in which it seems the Air Force awarded a suspect sole-source contract to an unknown Pennsylvania intelligence nonprofit entity, Commonwealth Research Institute. 

This scandalous behavior is not unique to the Air Force, and the government’s watchdog, the GAO, has issued a number of reports highlighting areas of concern. The Army has had its share of criminal contracting capers. In a complex example one officer had been running his operation from the Middle East while his family helped out stateside. Recently, the Army stood up its new contracting command to better manage the contracting process, though we remain convinced it only will streamline criminal activity and teach government conmen how to better cover their tracks. (Yes, we should be writing dime-store crime novels.)
Our recent favorite criminal controversy has to be “What’s $50 Million Among Friends?” It seems in 2005, the Air Force worked to “reward” a recently retired four star (not too many of those) and his millionaire buddy. At stake: a $50 million contract for event-size video boards to enhance the Air Force aerobatic team, the Thunderbirds, performances. (We’re not sure when watching the aircraft in the sky became so mundane that “Thundervision” (gack!) was needed.) Regardless, a certain two-star (who now is reportedly the vice director of the Joint Staff apparently made his contract award preferences known to the selection team. (“Did not!” seemed to be the gist of the story he gave investigators.) It seems the selection team listened, and now investigators are looking at the 99th Contracting Squadron because of “systemic weaknesses” and “irregularities that have overtaken the unit.” 

Given the volume of contracts and lack of oversight (not to mention lowered accession standards) our guess is the negative trend will continue. Great for those of us who thrive on the low-brow, bad news for defense denizens.

Recent Posts