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Procurement Official Questioned About No-Work Deal Found Dead

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By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 16, 2007; Page A06

The Air Force's second-highest-ranking procurement official was found dead Sunday night at his Virginia home in an apparent suicide, an internal Air Force memo said.

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Charles D. Riechers, 47, principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisitions, "was found deceased in his home, cause of death appears to be suicide, time of death is unknown," according to the memo, sent late Sunday by the Air Force Operations Center in the Pentagon.

Riechers, of South Riding, near Dulles Airport, was the subject of a front-page article in The Washington Post on Oct. 1 examining his employment at a Pennsylvania nonprofit group that conducted intelligence work for the Air Force.

The article said that while waiting to be confirmed for his Pentagon post, the Air Force arranged a job for Riechers at the Commonwealth Research Institute but said he that did no work for the firm. Instead, Riechers said he worked for Sue C. Payton, assistant Air Force secretary for acquisition.

Kraig Troxell, a spokesman for the Loudoun County sheriff's office, said Riechers was found dead in his home about 8 p.m. Sunday. The death was characterized as "unattended," Troxell said, and there were "no obvious signs of foul play."

The Office of the Chief Medical Officer in Fairfax County performed an autopsy yesterday, but the results were not available last night, spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said. The Air Force declined to comment on the circumstances of Riechers's death.

The Oct. 1 Post article said Riechers spent two months as a senior technical adviser for Commonwealth Research Institute of Johnstown, Pa., and earned $26,788. Contracting experts expressed concern about the arrangement, as well as the nonprofit status of Commonwealth Research Institute and its parent organization, Concurrent Technologies.

After the article appeared, the Senate Armed Services Committee asked the Air Force to explain the arrangement. The committee's chairman, Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), criticized the deal during a hearing.

The Air Force defended the arrangement, saying Riechers did work in support of the Air Force through a Commonwealth Research Institute contract.

"During his two month employment with CRI, Mr. Riechers was employed in a scientific and engineering technical assistance capacity to the Air Force and made recommendations that were instrumental in engineering our acquisition transformation and continuing the Air Force's modernization of our aging fleet," Lt. Col. Edward Thomas, an Air Force spokesman, said in a statement. Riechers retained "our full support" after the newspaper report and subsequent questions from the Armed Services Committee, he said.

Last week, Riechers faced new pressure over a procurement program he oversaw to provide maintenance for a fleet of refueling tankers. In September, Pemco Aeroplex of Birmingham had written to the Government Accountability Office to protest a $1.2 billion contract awarded to Boeing to provide the maintenance, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details were confidential.

The source said a Pemco lawyer cited The Post article in a second letter to the GAO, raising the possibility that Riechers had a conflict of interest in awarding the contract because Commonwealth Research Institute's corporate parent, Concurrent, claims Boeing as a client.

The GAO and Pemco declined to comment. Boeing said it was confident it will prevail in the appeal.

Riechers spent 20 years as an active-duty officer in the Air Force. Riechers, who served in the Persian Gulf War, retired in 2002. He is survived by a wife and son.


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