The Iron Triangle

Tracking Power, Money and Influence in U.S. National Security

E-mail: “New Director DCAA as of November 9, 2009”

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My article on the following e-mail.

—–Original Message—–
From: Stephenson, April, Ms, SES DCAA
Sent: Monday, October 26, 2009 2:08 PM
To: DCAA ALL DCAA Distribution List
Subject: New Director DCAA as of November 9, 2009

To All DCAA Employees

Below is an email message from the Honorable Robert Hale, Under
Secretary Defense (Comptroller) announcing my reassignment to a senior
executive position in the Comptroller’s office effective November 9th.
Mr. Patrick Fitzgerald, Director of the Army Audit Agency will be
appointed Director, DCAA effective the same day.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the employees of DCAA for
their tireless efforts in auditing contractor costs.  As Mr. Hale
mentions in his email below, DCAA plays a critical role in the
acquisition process.  Without the efforts of all DCAA employees,
billions of dollars of contractor overpayments and unallowable costs
would go undetected.

FY 2009 was a challenging year with the implementation of many
improvements across the Agency.  I appreciate the dedication and can-do
attitude of the DCAA workforce.   The many employee suggestions received
throughout the year were essential in developing new initiatives and
refining prior processes.

Although I will be moving on to new challenges, the employees of DCAA
will always be in my heart.

April G. Stephenson
Director, DCAA


I want to announce that Mr. Patrick Fitzgerald, currently the Auditor
General of the Army, will be taking over as the new DCAA Director.  Mr.
Fitzgerald is a CPA and has almost 30 years of audit experience.  He has
an excellent reputation as a successful manager of large, geographically
diverse audit organization.  He currently heads the DCAA Oversight
Committee, a group that I set up to help me provide oversight.    I
believe that Mr. Fitzgerald is particularly well qualified to guide DCAA
during this period.  He will take over as DCAA Director effective on
Monday, November 9, 2009.

I want to thank Ms. April Stephenson for her service at DCAA, mostly
recently as its Director.  During her tenure as Director, Ms. Stephenson
implemented a number of changes that will provide the foundation for
improvements at DCAA.  After leaving DCAA effective November 8, 2009,
Ms. Stephenson has accepted reassignment to an SES position on the staff
of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller).

DCAA remains a critical part of the acquisition process.  The strong and
capable staff at DCAA, coupled with hard work from all of you, helps DoD
acquire the best goods and services for our warfighters at reasonable
prices.  We must carefully address the concerns raised about DCAA in
recent reports issued by the GAO and the DoDIG.  I want to work with Mr.
Fitzgerald and the Agency’s employees to address those concerns in ways
that strengthen the organization and permit it to continue performing
its important role.

Thank you for your continued service.

Robert F. Hale
Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)


Written by schwellenbach

October 26, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell: “We are trying to break” the Iron Triangle

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Q     Yesterday the Center for Public Integrity came out with a report about the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense saying that 12 out of 16 members are basically in the pocket of the industry that they mapped out all these revolving doors in the lobby and they called it the worst of Washington’s revolving-door culture.

So given that the president has said he was going to come to town and clean up lobbying, and the secretary has said that you guys are trying to clean up contracting in this building, first of all, has there been any reaction from the secretary?  Has he seen this report? And secondly, why should the American people think that anything’s going to be different this time around, given that as soon as you come back to town in Congress, some such report comes out?

MR. MORRELL:  Frankly, I haven’t seen the report.  I frankly barely followed the question as you were asking it.  (Laughs.)  But I think the gist of it is — I think the gist of it is that you’re saying that members of Congress have had a cozy relationship with lobbyists.  Is that it?

Q     Right.  That’s — yeah, three-quarters of Murtha’s subcommittee, they say, are in the pocket of the defense industry, that there’s a —

MR. MORRELL:  Well, I don’t know what that means.  I — I don’t know what that means, “in the pocket of the defense industry.”  And if it’s —

Q     Well, I’ll tell you.  They map out the —

MR. MORRELL:  Okay.  I haven’t seen the report, so I really hesitate to comment on it.  So if you want to address this to the people who are criticized in the report, which seem to be members and those who support their campaigns, I would urge you to do so.

All I can tell you is that the president has made it very clear about what he wants to do with regards to defense contracting and government contracting overall, and that is to reform it, to clean it up, to make it more — to make it of greater value to the taxpayers so that there is not a waste of their hard-earned dollars, and to make sure that things are done ethically and appropriately.  And that’s what we are committed to in this building.

That’s what the secretary is committed to.  That’s what Bill Lynn is committed to.  And we’re working on it.

It won’t be changed overnight.  But we are putting in place measures that we hope will go a long way to changing that dynamic.  I mean, I would refer you to his remarks in Chicago where he talked about, you know, the sort of iron triangle of Congress and industry and the bureaucracy in this building conspiring together to promote business as usual.

And we are trying to break that tight bond between those three, and try to have this building be more responsive to the needs of the war fighter, and also give the taxpayers more for their money.  And that’s what our focus is on right now.

Written by schwellenbach

September 9, 2009 at 10:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Al Szekely

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In February, I spoke with Al Szekely, who was featured in Sunday’s op-ed piece, “Is It Now a Crime to Be Poor?” by Barbara Ehrenreich in The New York Times.  When I talked to him, he had just been robbed.  Someone had stolen the motor to his once-motorized wheelchair. Ehrenreich wrote of another set of predicaments Al has recently faced:

A grizzled 62-year-old, he inhabits a wheelchair and is often found on G Street in Washington — the city that is ultimately responsible for the bullet he took in the spine in Fu Bai, Vietnam, in 1972. He had been enjoying the luxury of an indoor bed until last December, when the police swept through the shelter in the middle of the night looking for men with outstanding warrants.

It turned out that Mr. Szekely, who is an ordained minister and does not drink, do drugs or curse in front of ladies, did indeed have a warrant — for not appearing in court to face a charge of “criminal trespassing” (for sleeping on a sidewalk in a Washington suburb). So he was dragged out of the shelter and put in jail. “Can you imagine?” asked Eric Sheptock, the homeless advocate (himself a shelter resident) who introduced me to Mr. Szekely. “They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless.”

For Al Szekely, the arrest for trespassing meant a further descent down the circles of hell. While in jail, he lost his slot in the shelter and now sleeps outside the Verizon Center sports arena, where the big problem, in addition to the security guards, is mosquitoes. His stick-thin arms are covered with pink crusty sores, which he treats with a regimen of frantic scratching.

The following pictures of Al were taken by me during the filming of “Ink So Hot It’s Running Down Every Page: Street Sense, D.C.’s Paper for the Homeless and Poor.” 

Written by schwellenbach

August 11, 2009 at 8:37 pm

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On Superlatives: The New York Times’ Climate Change & National Security article

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Today, in the Times lead article, “Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security,” a superlative is embedded in the second graf, which threw me for a loop:

Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.

Why did that statement throw me for a loop?  Look no farther than the article itself. After the jump and nearly at the end of the piece, the Times reveals:

The National Intelligence Council, which produces government-wide intelligence analyses, finished the first assessment of the national security implications of climate change just last year.

It’s hard to reconcile these two statements, unless you’re willing to say that the widely-reported NIC assessment last year was not a “serious look.” Don’t take it from me, check out NIC chairman Thomas Fingar’s testimony (pdf) before the House intelligence committee last year.

I think the national security implications of climate change are definitely newsworthy, but why pump up the originality of the current studies when they’re not groundbreaking at all?  One motivation could be an attempt to make the article and the subject it covers seem more significant.  Whatever the reason, it’s sloppy to be so internally inconsistent.

Based on the article, it seems that it’s not that these issues are getting their first serious look (i.e. an assessment), but are being taking seriously in planning and could affect the Pentagon and State Department’s once-in-four-year reviews for the first time.  In other words, the assessments are getting taken seriously.  Finally (I hope).

Written by schwellenbach

August 9, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Feds: Murtha-connected defense contractor exec took kickbacks

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The Associated Press is on it…

The former chief executive for a defense contractor with ties to Democratic U.S. Rep. John Murtha has been charged by federal prosecutors with taking about $200,000 in kickbacks from a subcontractor.

Richard S. Ianieri, of Doylestown, was charged in a one-count criminal information filed Monday in Pittsburgh. He is accused of accepting two kickbacks of about $100,000 each from a subcontractor — identified only as “K” — while he was an officer of Coherent Systems International Corp.

In an April 2006 news release, Murtha announced that Coherent and Kuchera Defense Systems were working “virtually as one company” on 14 contracts worth $30 million to develop high-tech military gear. At the time, both companies had offices in Windber, near Murtha’s home base of Johnstown.

Kuchera, which has given ten of thousands of dollars to Murtha’s campaign and political action committee, has been under scrutiny in recent months….

Written by schwellenbach

July 7, 2009 at 6:40 pm

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About 40 V-22s are missing

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G2Mil, a website highly critical of the Marine Corps (and Air Force’s) V-22 tilt-rotor, published a piece this month that makes a compelling case that the Marine Corps isn’t accounting for around 40 V-22s it should have.

Written by schwellenbach

July 4, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


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A retired U.S. military official pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges relating to Department of Defense (DOD) contracts in Afghanistan, the Department of Justice announced today.

According to the plea agreement, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago today, First Lieutenant Robert Moore (Ret.) pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bribery charges. Moore admitted to accepting money from contractors in exchange for the award of DOD contracts at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan (Bagram). Moore also admitted to falsifying the number of bunkers and barriers delivered at Bagram, causing DOD to pay for bunkers and barriers that were never received. Bunkers and barriers are cement structures used at Bagram for force protection and perimeter walls. Additionally, Moore pleaded guilty to falsifying damage reports for leased vehicles at Bagram, causing DOD to pay for repairs not needed or performed. Moore has agreed to pay $120,000 in restitution and to cooperate with the Department’s investigation.

“Conduct that defrauds the United States and depletes funds intended for the war effort in Afghanistan or elsewhere will not be tolerated,” said Christine A. Varney, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department’s Antitrust Division.

Moore’s plea follows the return of a related superseding indictment on June 19, 2009, and the entry of guilty pleas by two of the individuals charged in the superseding indictment. Christopher P. West, a U.S. Army Major from Chicago, and Patrick W. Boyd, a U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant from Rockledge. Fla., pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges relating to DOD contracts at Bagram. The superseding indictment also charged four individuals ­ Assad John Ramin, Tahir Ramin, Noor Alam and Abdul Qudoos Bakhshi ­ and four companies ­ AZ Corporation, Top’s Construction, Northern Reconstruction and Naweed Bakhshi Company ­ with various counts of bribery, fraud and conspiracy relating to DOD contracts at Bagram. Also on June 19, 2009, Charles Patton, a U.S. Army Sergeant from Chicago, pleaded guilty to charges of receiving stolen property.

Moore is charged with conspiracy, a violation that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Under the statute, the fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum. Moore is also charged with bribery, a violation that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or up to three times the amount or value of the bribe, whichever is greater.

Written by schwellenbach

July 2, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized