From what I can tell, almost no one in the media is paying attention to the fact, reported yesterday by the Dirt Diggers Digest, that inventory and distribution activities at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, where nuclear missile parts were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan in 2006, are under the control of a contractor—EG&G Technical Services. The one exception I could find is Matthew LaPlante of the Salt Lake Tribune, whose article today notes he was unable to get responses from officials at the company, at Hill AFB or at the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which was made to appear the responsible party when the Pentagon revealed the snafu earlier this week.
It’s not as if there is nothing to report. The Taiwan screw-up appears to be part of a pattern of inventory problems at various contractor-operated DLA distribution depots. In November 2006, the Defense Department Inspector General issued an audit report finding that at the depots overall:
Government and contractor personnel did not properly perform physical inventory counts during the execution of statistical sampling plans to measure dollar value and supply record accuracy; the Distribution Standard System contained inaccurate inventory information for individual storage locations; depot personnel did not complete research of inventory discrepancies in a timely manner, retain adequate supporting documentation, or use the proper error codes to identify underlying causes; and accountable officers did not perform consistent or adequate quality checks of completed inventory counts.
What also makes this story interesting is the identity of EG&G’s parent company—URS Corporation. URS is a $5 billion company that “serves” the federal government, not only through EG&G but also with its engineering services. Those latter activities expanded last year when URS took over one of its rivals, Washington Group International. Both URS and Washington Group have participated in the dismal reconstruction effort in Iraq.
The award of the Iraq contract to URS was particularly controversial, given that the company was controlled at the time by Richard Blum, husband of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. Feinstein came under fire last year from critics who charged her with conflict of interest for sitting on a military appropriations subcommittee while her husband had financial interests in URS as well as in Perini Corp., another Pentagon contractor. In April 2007 anti-war activists protested outside the San Francisco home of Feinstein and Blum to highlight the issue. Blum ended his relationship with URS in 2005.