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Federal No-Bid Contracts On Rise

Contracting officials at the department also determined that the no-bid arrangement was okay because Simeone and his subcontractor were uniquely qualified to do the work, in part because they intended to replicate some work they had done for the White House drug office, he said.

"Every step of the way, we followed the advice and guidance of our ethics officer," Dhillon said. "We did everything we're required to do by law and then some."

Dhillon said he was comfortable hiring Simeone after Chronister and another office official described the consultant as a counter-narcotics expert. He said the firm performed well.

"My goal was to get this done as quickly and efficiently as possible," he said. "He obviously had experience with this and was knowledgeable about this."

Homeland Security's counter-narcotics office was formed in 2004 to develop policies that unify various drug-enforcement programs. With fewer than a dozen employees, the office has struggled with deadlines for its budget, annual reports and the development of a system for measuring the effectiveness of drug-control efforts, Dhillon said.

After Dhillon was confirmed as the office's director in May 2006, he made the development of the measure system "one of my highest priorities," he said. He said Congress and the White House had made multiple requests for information that the office could not provide.

A senior manager at the counter-narcotics office had been assigned to the task. But Dhillon said he "came to the conclusion the office was not really in a position" to finish the work.

In July, Chronister asked Simeone for help in developing a system to measure the impact of government interdiction efforts. Simeone in turn decided to hire another consultant, John Carnevale, for help.

Chronister, Simeone and Carnevale had worked together over the years, including at the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Chronister later worked as a senior policy analyst at Carnevale Associates, a policy consulting firm owned by Carnevale, before joining the counter-narcotics office.

Simeone, too, worked at Carnevale Associates. He is listed as chief scientist, on the firm's Web site. At the same time, Simeone ran his own company, Simeone Associates. Carnevale is listed on that company's Web site as a senior associate.

Carnevale said Chronister sought the meeting with Simeone last July "to explain the problems they were having related to pulling together a performance-measurement system and asked him for advice."

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