• Another Whistleblower Speaks Out: Air Force Contract Fraud

    July 18, 2014 // 16 Comments »

    Looking for a new hero? Meet former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Tim Ferner, who exposed millions in U.S. government contract fraud, and paid the price for his patriotism.

    Contract Fraud with Your Money

    Tim Ferner blew the whistle on a contract-steering scam involving a middleman in Florida and an engineering company hired to develop anti-terrorism techniques.

    Tim Ferner suspected the scam in 2007 when his superiors at the Coalition and Irregular Warfare Center downplayed his concerns about how contracts were being doled out. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), received those contracts.

    Ferner tried to go through military channels to stop the fraud he witnessed, Instead of helping, his superiors made his life difficult, even threatening to deploy him to Afghanistan while he was undergoing cancer treatment. Ultimately, he was fired from his job as Chief of Staff for the Coalition and Irregular Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base and relegated to a menial position. With channels closed off and retaliation underway, the case went to court.


    SAIC and the government reached a settlement. The Department of Justice went to pains to note the settlement contained “allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.” However, SAIC agreed to pay the government $5.75 million to resolve allegations it circumvented the bidding process to obtain lucrative contracts.

    Ferner’s lawyers claimed the alleged scam was facilitated by a civilian middleman who “claimed to be a high-ranking government official who had authority to bypass the bidding process, none of which was true.” Ferner himself “was alarmed that his military supervisors condoned and wanted to cover up the violation.”

    And hey, small world: SAIC around the same time also paid the government $11.75 million to settle allegations it charged inflated prices for another, unrealted, contract.

    EXCLUSIVE: Ferner Recounts His Whistleblowing

    Ferner received a nice financial award under the False Claims Act, and left the U.S. for New Zealand. In an exclusive, he speaks out on his own experience as a whistleblower, with some hard words for America about how its government works:

    Exactly one year after my whistle-blowing case became public, I’m looking back and wondering: “What the hell was I thinking?” Like many whistleblowers, my allegations were validated; I was vindicated but nobody was ever held accountable. So actually, what was accomplished?

    My case pales in comparison to others working in the government who have come across really bad people doing horrendous things. All across America there are thousands of regular people, brave men and women who happen upon malfeasance. These people had the courage and conviction to do the right thing and report it. Why? Like myself, these people did the right thing because honor and integrity are the core essence of who they are. Unfortunately, honesty, integrity and dedication to professionalism are dying traits across America and individuals who demonstrate these qualities are punished, especially those who work within the government sector.

    I’ve always felt that as a member of the United States military it was an honor and privilege to serve a great nation. And that, in addition to my legal obligations, I had a moral obligation to ensure that the monies the American people paid were spent in the most effective and efficient manner. I always treated government monies the same as my own personal money and spent it judiciously. Unfortunately, other military members and government employees don’t hold the same view. Consequently, millions and millions of taxpayers’ dollars are wasted needlessly. Like thousands of other whistle-blowers working for the government, I found out what happens when you have the audacity to call them out on fraud, waste and abuse and try and hold people accountable.

    The terrorist attacks that occurred on 9/11 changed our country in many ways. People don’t recognize that it’s changed the way the government provides safety and security to the people. The government embraced contractors to provide security in keeping America safe. We seem to be safer but at what cost? This decision has transformed the governmental contracting process into something akin to a gigantic hog’s trough. The government pours an endless supply of money into the trough and the contractors continue to “belly up” and feed totally unchecked. The government provides little oversight over monies spent and a fearful public doesn’t care so long as they think they are safe.

    Consequently, unscrupulous individuals continue to line their pockets at our expense. Even when they are caught, the government does nothing and seemingly doesn’t care. Contractors pay huge fines under the auspices of “avoiding the costs of protracted litigation” while the individuals involved plead to lesser charges in exchange for working with prosecutors. The fraud, waste and abuse is so prevalent that this ridiculous cycle is the only way to keep it in check. The “Justice System” is devoid of any justice or accountability; it’s solely a process designed to make it look like something is being done.

    I uncovered in excess of $42 million in fraud. Despite this, nobody has been prosecuted or held accountable. Like so many other contractors, a multimillion dollar settlement was paid to the government to “costly, protracted litigation.” The individual operating as the “middleman” was ultimately found to be liable for $42 million. Despite this, he negotiated this down and paid a fine of $105,000 in exchange for providing assistance to the government in “ongoing investigations.” Amazingly, all these people still have security clearances and still work as a contractors for the government. What message does this send about the government’s commitment to honesty and integrity in the contracting community?

    The Air Force officers responsible for overseeing the programs involved in the fraud all walked away with no repercussions to their careers. The taxpayers paid a lot of money to some very senior officers to not be held accountable. A sad commentary that in today’s Air Force, the moral fibre of the command environment is so fetid that it views fraud as a normal cost of doing business. Nice to know the senior leaders who are deciding the fate of your sons and daughters get that privilege given their lack of morality. How can we expect them to make an appropriate decision on the sanctity of life when they lack the morality to decide simple things like what’s right and wrong concerning contract fraud? Aren’t the military supposed to be above the pettiness of politics? Or has the military just become another breeding ground for the dysfunctional politicians that now stymie our political system? Given the fiscal state of the country people should be outraged!

    Like so many other whistle-blowers; I know in my heart I did the right thing in reporting the fraud. And again, like so many other whistle-blowers I was the only one who paid a price throughout the ordeal. Ostracised, targeted and ultimately punished because I had the audacity to believe we the people deserve better. When are we going to start holding people accountable? Like other whistleblowers; I’ve done my part. Everybody needs to do their part. It’s hard for others to look at maleficence in government and report it when they see how whistleblowers are treated but more needs to be done.

    I hope you never find yourself in the unenviable position of being a whistleblower; and I mean that. Yeah, I got a nice settlement for my troubles as a whistleblower but that’s not why I did it. I did it because it was the right thing to do. Knowing what I know now, I’m still looking back thinking; “What the hell was I thinking?”

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    Posted in Afghanistan, Military

    US Mission to Iraq: 16,000 Personnel?

    November 14, 2011 // 5 Comments »

    Iraq, acting so so cute when it tries to seem like a real grownup sovereign nation, actually has asked the US to explain who all the 16,000 personnel that will make up the State Department’s mission in Iraq are.

    A member of the al-Iraqiya Bloc in the Iraqi Parliament has demanded the Iraqi government carry out an accounting of the people at the World’s Largest Embassy (c), including the estimated 5000 security contractors in charge of protecting the Embassy.

    “Iraq of 2012 shall be different than the previous years, as its doors are no longer open before whoever wishes to enter the country, under any name, and without knowing the foreign intelligence agency he belongs to and who had sent him and who he it would protect,” the Parliamentarian said. “It is necessary to carry out a complete counting for the contractors, in charge for the protection of the US Embassy in Baghdad, along with the total number of the Embassy’s staff, in order to know the real size of the Embassy and whether Iraq’s regulations allow the establishment of an embassy with such a large size.”

    So really, what are 16,000 people going to do everyday in Iraq on behalf of the US government?

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    Posted in Afghanistan, Military

    State: We Don’t Know How Many Contractors in Iraq, Hah hah hah

    October 5, 2011 // Comments Off on State: We Don’t Know How Many Contractors in Iraq, Hah hah hah

    Daily Press Briefing, Tuesday, 4 October, State Department Spokesman Victoria Nuland:

    QUESTION: There’s a hearing in the House on wartime contractors. A lot of concern about the civilian contractors that will be going into Afghanistan with State. And do you have any update on the status – I – we have figures of 17,000 contractors that State will be bringing in, including 5,500 security contractors —

    MS. NULAND (pictured bowing to George Bush): Are you in Iraq or are you Afghanistan, or are you in both, Jill?

    QUESTION: I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m in Iraq. I was not quite sure where I was. (Laughter.) But I’m now in Iraq. (Laughter.)


    MS. NULAND: I’m glad I’m not the only one who sometimes doesn’t know where she is.

    QUESTION: It felt like I was in Afghanistan. But, too bad. It was Iraq.

    MS. NULAND: I don’t have the figures here. Those figures sound high to me, but obviously we’re going to have —

    QUESTION: Can you get those?

    MS. NULAND: — I believe the hearing was – it either was this morning or it’s going to be tomorrow, I can’t remember. But this is an effort to make clear on the Hill some of the underpinnings for the State Department budget request, where – in an environment where U.S. forces are withdrawing, who have in the past provided security for our civilian programs, we’re going to have to do some contract security. But those numbers do sound high to me. But let us get back to you.

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    Posted in Afghanistan, Military

    Obama Jobs Program: For Afghanistan

    September 16, 2011 // Comments Off on Obama Jobs Program: For Afghanistan

    One of every six Americans is legally poor. One on six Americans now lives in poverty. About 46.2 million people are now considered in poverty, 2.6 million more than last year. Some 50 million Americans lack health insurance, and of course no one can find work. Good news: Obama has a job plan, at least for Afghanistan.

    It cost nearly $2 billion over the last two years to send hundreds of US civilians to Afghanistan to help with development projects, the economy and training Afghan government officials. Sending just one employee to Afghanistan for one year, excluding infrastructure and security needed to support that person, costs the government between $410,000 and $570,000, according to the joint report by the offices of the State Department inspector general and the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. So woo hoo, some people have jobs!

    Click on the image to the right to see a cost breakdown for maintaining one fat, lazy ass contractor in Afghanistan.

    And what do those high-paid contractors do in Afghanistan? They spend money helping Afghans do things like rebuild schools and roads, start businesses and access health care. How much money is being spent? No one really knows, but a nice ballpark figure, with enactment of the sixth FY2011 Continuing Resolution through March 18, 2011, (H.J.Res. 48/P.L. 112-6) Congress has approved a total of $1.283 trillion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan and other counter terror operations; Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), providing enhanced security at military bases; and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

    So don’t worry if you live in Cleveland, or Detroit, or New Orleans, and have no job, no health care and maybe no food. Obama has a plan for you– move to Iraq or Afghanistan, where US money drips from the sky into your hands.

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    Posted in Afghanistan, Military

    Army of the Department of State

    June 24, 2011 // Comments Off on Army of the Department of State

    The State Department still plans to hire some 5500 mercs to guard the Baghdad Embassy and other State nightspots in Iraq starting in 2012 when the cheaper services of the US Army may not be available.

    The question being asked is, of course, what could possibly go wrong? Though earlier gangs of mercs working for State gunned down Iraqis here and there, no doubt confusing the concept of “diplomacy” with “murderous funtimes,” and mercs guarding the Embassy in Kabul were photographed doing vodka shots off each others’ butts (pictured), State blithely assures everyone that this time it will be different.

    But why take someone’s word for it when you can write it into the contract? Army Special Forces in Afghanistan, who use locals to guard their camps, have actually written details of expected behavior into the contract.

    Here are some examples from the Army paper that State may wish to adopt:

    “Do not kill or torture detained personnel.” (good one!)
    “No booby-trapping, burning or mutilation of corpses.”

    “Do not attack protected persons or protected places like mosques, hospitals, cemeteries and schools.”

    “Fight only combatants. Destroy no more than the mission requires. Returned fire with aimed fire. Must limit/eliminate collateral damage to innocent civilians.”

    Specifying such details in the contract will no doubt help clean up the mercs’ act. It will certainly have as much impact as the software license agreements where one clicks “Accept.”  Silly lawyers!

    More about State’s mercs in Afghanistan…

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    Posted in Afghanistan, Military

    State Department’s $10 Billion Army in Iraq

    May 11, 2011 // 1 Comment »

    The Munchkin Army Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, this one is for you. Let’s spend the money at home, not throwing more of it down the Iraq money pit.

    You just can’t put a price on security—until now. While the town I live in has had to close its library one day a week to save money, and shut down part of the police department, the State Department plans to spend $10 billion on guards for our Embassy and Consulates in Iraq. Some 74% of Embassy Baghdad’s operating costs go to security.

    Danger Room reports that a company named SOC will guard the Embassy facilities, while long-time merc group Triple Canopy will provide protection when personnel need to scurry outside the Embassy fortress. The overall goal is for State to have its own Army of some 5500 contracted mercs, almost two full brigades worth of hired guns. Deflowered old war horse Blackwater, under yet another dummy corporation name, will also get a piece of the money pie. Yeah, Blackwater, that’s worked out well for the State Department in the past.  Having seen these contractors in action in Iraq myself, they are what our military would look like without NCOs, a frat house with guns.

    Congresswoman, better call those State contracting officials back up to the Hill.

    Triple Canopy is the company that now guards the Embassy, using almost exclusively Ugandans and Peruvians hired out of their own countries and brought to Iraq. They get paid about $600 a month, while their US supervisors pull down $20,000 of your tax dollars every month. Many of the Ugandan and Peruvian guards got their jobs through nasty middlemen (i.e., “pimps,” “slavers”), who take back most of the salaries to repay recruitment costs, leaving many guards as essentially indentured servants. Or so we think, as most speak no English and have to suck up whatever gets dumped on them.

    dorm And dump we do—even State’s own Inspector General criticized the foreign guards’ living conditions, noting among other things 400% occupancy rates in the metal shipping containers the guards used as sleeping quarters. The report also details groovy fire hazards at the guards’ quarters, plus features blissfully unclassified photos of the Embassy gates from the inside which would not be helpful for bad guys, all conveniently on the Internet.

    Luckily we won the freaking war, or who knows what security would cost?

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    Posted in Afghanistan, Military