In the years following the scandal, Schmitz climbed the government ranks and became the Defense Department's inspector general. In July 2005, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) informed Schmitz of an investigation into whether he had blocked two criminal investigations. When Schmitz left his position as inspector general shortly thereafter, he did so under a cloud, but a 2006 investigation under the auspices of the President's and Executive Councils on Integrity and Efficiency concluded that Schmitz had committed "no wrongdoing."
In January 2009, he joined the D.C. office of the independent risk-management group Freeh Group International Solutions, run by former FBI director Louis Freeh.
According to Schmitz, he and Freeh met with SIGAR officials, including Fields, in the fall of that year to discuss how they could quickly boost the watchdog's maligned investigative capability. The Freeh Group said it ultimately backed out for logistical reasons. In July 2010, a peer review deemed SIGAR's investigative unit substandard, creating the possibility that Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. could strip the agency of its investigative authority. At that point, Richardson says, the Freeh Group referred them to Schmitz. Patti Bescript, a managing director for the Freeh Group, said that Schmitz's formal association with the company had concluded on April 30 of that year, and that there was no such referral or recommendation to SIGAR.
If everyone involved wants distance from Schmitz's hiring, they want even more from the details of his no-bid contract, priced at a level that required fewer signatures - and less oversight - for approval. According to Schmitz, SIGAR leadership told him the agency needed someone to come onboard quickly and conduct an independent assessment, and asked him if he could price the contract under $100,000. "There was something about they could do a sole source if it was under $100,000," Schmitz said.
Richardson said Schmitz initially asked for more than $300,000, a figure of which Schmitz said he "cannot find any record." Richardson said the final $95,000 had to do with reducing cost, not oversight. "There was no collusion," Richardson said.
Schmitz sent letters notifying the members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on contracting oversight about his contract and inviting them to raise any concerns. Five days later they did, and a conference call was arranged for 4 p.m. Minutes before it started, the senators made public a letter calling on Obama to remove Fields. The letter cited the Schmitz contract as a cause for alarm.
SIGAR officials canceled the conference call.
Fields's prospects for maintaining command of SIGAR looked bleak, and it quickly became apparent that his make-or-break moment would be an upcoming hearing before the subcommittee. Fields needed to be ready.