Navy secretary announces special review team for contracts

Alarmed by a bribery and kickback scandal involving a Navy contract, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said on Monday he has created a special review team to find ways to prevent future frauds.

Addressing the Navy League's annual Sea-Air-Space exposition at the National Harbor convention center, Mabus repeated the warning he gave the audience of service members and defense contractors last year that he "would not hesitate to recommend or to cancel programs that are too expensive, ineffective, or unneeded."

He cited the example of the Marine Corps' long-sought Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle that Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled early this year with support from Mabus and Gen. James Amos, the Marine Corps commandant.

But while Mabus said he would continue to insist on better cost control and performance in contracts, "we also have to be strict about the integrity of the procurement process. We will not accept any impropriety, kickbacks, bribery, or fraud."

The secretary said he directed the review team "to investigate and recommend improvements in the contracting process to protect against its occurrence in the future." He said the department also has expanded the use of "fact-based suspension and disbarment actions."

Asked about the review team at a brief media availability later, Mabus said his action was triggered more by a recent indictment involving a Navy contract, than by doubts about the service's overall contracting practices.

He appeared to be referring to a criminal complaint filed on February 8 in a federal court in Rhode Island against a Navy systems engineer and the president of Advanced Solutions for Tomorrow. The charges alleged bribery of a public official in connection with an ongoing kickback scheme involving approximately $10 million of naval funds, according to a Navy release.

The Navy also has suspended the Georgia-based company, and on March 11 canceled all active contracts with it.

The suspended contracts included one in which Advanced Solutions provided engineering and technical services for submarine combat and command and control systems to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I., and in support of unmanned undersea vehicle capability, and the design and development of combat-systems architecture, the Navy said.

Mabus said the agreement late on Friday that should fund the government through the end of fiscal year 2011 after six months of continuing resolutions will allow the Navy to buy the second Virginia class attack submarine, the first of the Mobile Landing Platform ships, and to move ahead with other programs that were threatened by the prolonged reliance on CRs.

The budget compromise also will make life easier for the sailors, Marines, and their families by allowing them to go back to providing a six-month notice of permanent change of station orders, instead of the two-month lead required under the CR, Mabus said.

Mabus ducked a question about speculation that he was a leading candidate to replace Gates, saying: "I have a wonderful job and I will stay in it as long as the president wants me."

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