House Panel Begins Broader Review of Procurement System

By Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 26, 2009; A10

A House oversight panel has begun a review of Army technology contracts that were awarded under questionable circumstances and involved a government official and a contractor with close personal ties.

The examination by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee is a step toward a broader "investigation of problems with the Federal procurement system," said an Aug. 20 letter signed by Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.).

Committee investigators are seeking files from the Merit Systems Protection Board that contain e-mails, Army reports and other documents related to contract awards in 2005 and 2006 that were worth up to $191 million.

"We are examining events surrounding the award of certain contracts involving the U.S. Army's Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM)," the Towns letter said.

The inquiry follows a Washington Post article about the relationship between George Raymond, the director of a technology program at Fort Belvoir, and Catherine Campbell, a favored contractor, and how it illustrated core problems in the federal procurement system.

After meeting in 2004 at a technology conference in Hawaii, the two spent much time together, sailing on the Chesapeake, traveling on official business and walking for exercise. They frequently exchanged e-mail, according to documents obtained by The Post.

Over the next few years, Raymond and Campbell were involved in contracts awarded to companies where she worked. One of those contracts, a deal worth up to $185 million, was given to BearingPoint in December 2006. According to a BearingPoint document, the "leadership team" that sought the contract included Campbell and a senior vice president who was also a close friend of Raymond and the owner of a 40-foot boat called Sea Eagle that they all regularly sailed with other government officials and contractors.

Last year, after an Army lawyer questioned the contracts, an internal Army inquiry found evidence that Raymond had allegedly violated several federal contracting regulations and laws, including passing on confidential government cost estimates to Campbell, according to an Army report. In an interview, Raymond acknowledged sharing the information, but he said he did so only to help teach Campbell how the procurement system works.

Federal law prohibits government officials from sharing confidential cost estimates with contractors. A conviction can result in five years in prison.

The official conducting the Army inquiry recommended that the evidence be referred to the Army economic crimes unit at Fort Belvoir for "further investigation into possible criminal violations." Before that happened, Raymond retired and took a job as an Army technology contractor with Computer Sciences Corp. He did so with references from senior Army officials, his résumé shows.

Raymond did not return phone calls on Tuesday.

A host of questions remain unanswered about the contract awards and the Army's handling of the case. Among them is whether the BearingPoint contract was properly awarded. The Army acknowledged recently that Raymond's office "may not have followed proper administrative procedures" and that the contract award "created at least an appearance of impropriety."

An Army spokesman declined to comment on the congressional inquiry. In response to earlier questions, the Army said in a statement Tuesday that "had Mr. Raymond disclosed his relationship to BearingPoint officials, it would have been appropriate for the Army to have relieved him of any responsibilities in that matter."

Also at issue is whether Raymond was permitted to retire with his top-secret clearance, despite the allegations. His résumé indicates that he retained his clearance, and he confirmed that in an interview. But in a recent statement, an Army spokesman said "our standard procedure in circumstances involving serious employee misconduct is to suspend the clearance indefinitely. We know of no cases in the past two years where that standard procedure was not followed."

Legal review of the contracts also apparently fell short. The Army statement on Tuesday said: "It does not appear that either contract was ever submitted for an Army legal review. . . . Given the dollar value of the acquisitions in question, both the solicitation and contract should have been reviewed."

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