Civilian Army official charged in bribery case

An Army contracting official was charged on Jan. 28, 2015 with trying to extort a half-million dollars in bribes from two executives of a Fairfax, Va., company after a months-long sting operation in which one of the executives wore a wire.

James Glenn Warner, 44, of Manassas, Va., appeared briefly in federal district court in Alexandria, telling a judge that he could not afford a lawyer after prosecutors informed him he was being charged with bribery. He was ordered detained until another hearing Friday.

Detailed in a 34-page criminal complaint by FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Pollack, Warner’s alleged misdeeds and efforts to avoid detection range from cunning to comical. He initially communicated his demand on a note tucked inside a restaurant menu and at one point patted down one of the executives for a recording device, according to the affidavit. But he missed it and was caught on video discussing bribe money, according to the affidavit.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/civilian-army-official-charged-in-bribery-case/2015/01/28/803e6b34-a723-11e4-a06b-9df2002b86a0_story.html

House lawmakers call for OFPP to issue reverse auction guidance

House lawmakers are pressing the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to update the Federal Acquisition Regulations to detail how best agencies should use reverse auctions.

Reps. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairmen of the Veterans Affairs and Small Business committees, respectively, wrote to Anne Rung, OFPP administrator, Dec. 4, asking for a FAR case to be opened immediately to address reverse auctions.

“As you may well know, while our two committees recognize that reverse auctions, when properly used, may deliver savings to the taxpayer, we have long been concerned that some are misusing this tool to evade competition and compliance with other procurement regulations,” Graves and Miller wrote in the letter obtained by Federal News Radio.

Graves and Miller highlight findings from the December 2013 report from Government Accountability Office as well as recent GAO bid protest decisions detailing agency struggles with reverse auctions.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/517/3765084/House-lawmakers-call-for-OFPP-to-issue-reverse-auction-guidance

Pentagon gets better grip on spending for services contracts

Defense Department managers in fiscal 2013 came in $500 million under spending limits on contract services required by the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, a watchdog found, an improvement over the previous year, when departmental caps were exceeded by $1.72 billion.

pentagon-sealBut more precision and consistency in multi-year data are needed to “budget and manage contract services spending,” the Government Accountability Office reported on Dec. 11, 2014. Of all Pentagon components, only the Army broke the limits on the services contracts that the congressional Armed Services committees determined were needed to maintain the proper balance between the civilian and contract workforces.

The Army, auditors found, exceeded its spending target “due to inaccurate budget estimates and weaknesses in planning by not soliciting inputs on commands’ contract services spending plans.”

Keep reading this story at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/12/pentagon-gets-better-grip-spending-services-contracts/101154

Former Army contracting official sentenced to 4 years in prison in bribery and kickback scheme

In Seon Lim, a former contracting official for the U.S. Department of the Army, has been sentenced to four years in prison for his role in a scheme in which he accepted over $490,000 worth of benefits, including cash payments and vacations, from favored contractors. In return, he helped these businesses obtain millions of dollars in federal contracts.

Lim, 48, of Fairfax Station, Va., also known as InSeon Lim, pled guilty in July 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to three offenses: conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud; bribery; and attempting to interfere with and impede tax laws.

Upon completion of his prison term, Lim will be placed on three years of supervised release. He also must pay restitution, including $250,000 to the Department of Defense and nearly $125,000 to the IRS. In addition, he must pay a forfeiture money judgment of $490,262.

Lim is among 18 individuals and one corporation, Nova Datacom, LLC, to plead guilty to federal charges in an investigation that uncovered the largest domestic bribery and bid-rigging scheme in the history of federal contracting cases. Overall, participants in the scheme stole over $30 million in government money through inflated and fictitious invoices.

According to a statement of offense, signed by Lim as well as the government, Lim was a public official until April 2012. The charges involve his activities as an assistant project manager and product director with the Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems, a part of the Army that provides infrastructure and informational management systems.

Until June 2010, Lim resided and worked in Seoul, South Korea. While in South Korea, his primary duties were to oversee and implement communications systems upgrades for the U.S. forces there, which included approximately 10 communications centers and various other special projects at military sites throughout the country. Among other things, Lim coordinated work on a major contract, which, in turn, had numerous sub-contracts.

From June 2010 until his resignation in April 2012, Lim worked as a product director at Fort Belvoir, Va.

In the statement of offense, Lim admits that he secretly used his official position to enrich himself by soliciting and accepting gifts, payments and other things of value from government contractors—totaling more than $490,000—in return for favorable official action. Among other things, the statement of offense notes, Lim received payments personally and to accounts that he controlled; payments for travel, vacation, vehicles, cellphones and cellular service for himself and family members; ownership interests in two companies, and other benefits.

In exchange, Lim now admits, he provided favorable official action on subcontracts obtained and retained by the favored government contractors as requested and as opportunities arose. He also disclosed confidential bid information to the favored government contractors.

“This Army official sold the public trust for a half-million dollars in bribes,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Lim is now headed to prison along with many other corrupt officials and government contractors brought down in this sweeping investigation. His fate is a warning shot for other government officials tempted to sell out the American people to line their own pockets that they should think twice. The prison sentences handed out in this case make clear that government officials and business people who corrupt the contracting process put their own freedom at risk.”

“In his role as a federal contracting officer, In Seon Lim betrayed the trust that was placed in him by fellow citizens by taking bribes in exchange for providing favorable action on government contracts,” said Assistant Director in Charge McCabe. “The FBI, with our partners, will continue to investigate and expose fraudulent kickback schemes that tarnish the good and ethical work that procurement officers carry out on behalf of the U.S. government each and every day.”

“The kickback scheme in which In Seon Lim participated disrespected the hard work and dedication of thousands of government employees who are committed to providing honest services in the federal contracting process,” said Special Agent in Charge Kelly. “IRS-Criminal Investigation stands committed to weeding out individuals, who abuse the privilege of their positions as a public official, for their personal gain.”

The court documents provide details about numerous contracts and payments. For example:

  • Nova Datacom: According to the statement of offense, two former employees of the Northern Virginia company—Alex N. Cho, also known as Young N. Cho, and Nick Park—paid Lim $40,000 in cash in 2007. In addition, Park paid for Lim’s travel, lodging, meals and entertainment during a trip to the Philippines in 2007, and Cho paid for Lim’s lodging, $10,000 cash, and a $1,000 casino chip during a trip later that year to Las Vegas. Lim, meanwhile, agreed to use his official position to recommend the company for a contract valued at nearly $330,000.
  • Avenciatech:According to the statement of offense, former officials of Avenciatech, Inc., a government contractor based in Annandale, Va., provided Lim with cash payments; payments for hotel stays for Lim and family members, including a trip to the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas; payments to finance the purchase of a 2010 Lexus automobile, and payments for other things of value. One of the officials, Oh Sung Kwon, also known as Thomas Kwon, also assisted Lim in obtaining financing for the purchase of a home in Fairfax Station, Va., where Lim resided following his reassignment in 2010 to a position at Fort Belvoir. Lim, meanwhile, assisted the company in obtaining more than $3 million in contracts.
  • UEI: Nick Park left Nova Datacom in 2007 and co-founded another government contractor, Unisource Enterprise Inc. (UEI), based in Annandale, Va. According to the statement of offense, in exchange for favorable treatment, Lim was given a secret ownership in UEI. Among other things, Lim provided Park with sensitive procurement information. He also assisted the company in obtaining a government sub-contract worth over $1.1 million.

Cho, Park, and Kwon are among those who earlier pled guilty to charges in the case.

In addition to pleading guilty to the conspiracy and bribery charges, Lim admitted that he failed to report the bribes he received on tax returns for the years 2007 through 2011. He also failed to keep records that would allow him to file accurate records for 2012 and 2013.  Lim was sentenced on Oct. 24, 2014.

Temporary funding benefits Army acquisition

The U.S. Army’s top weapons buyer said temporary funding keeping the government open until December is actually a good thing for the service’s weapons acquisition programs.

Congress passed the short-term measure, known as a continuing resolution, or CR, last month to fund government agencies, including the Defense Department, through Dec. 11, at which point lawmakers will need to take another similar step or pass a full-year budget.

“It’s quite ironic, but in this fiscal environment we’re living in, in which annual base budgets are declining, CR turns out to be great because I can spend what I was authorized last year, right, as opposed to this year, in which inevitably my budget is going to be cut ‚” Heidi Shyu said at last week’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., organized by the Association of the United States Army, an Arlington, Virginia-based advocacy group.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.dodbuzz.com/2014/10/21/shyu-ill-take-temporary-funding-over-budget-cuts/

GTRI successfully commands multiple UAVs to perform autonomous formation flight

These days, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) typically fly alone with a team of ground operators controlling their activities through teleoperation or waypoint-based routing. But one aircraft can only carry so many sensors, limiting its capabilities. That’s one reason why a fleet of autonomous aircraft can be better than one flying alone.

In one of the first autonomous demonstrations, the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) has successfully commanded three fully autonomous, collaborating UAVs. The machines flew in close formation at the same altitude, separated by approximately 50 meters as they executed  figure-eight patterns. The research is part of GTRI’s efforts to improve the capabilities for autonomous systems collaborating as teams, thereby reducing the load on human operators.

“For autonomous systems to scale effectively, future systems will need the ability to perform with a higher level of autonomy,” said GTRI Chief Scientist Lora Weiss, who leads GTRI’s UAV research. “Human operators must be able to provide high-level task descriptions, allowing the systems to figure out for themselves how to dynamically form teams and autonomously collaborate to complete tasks.”

GTRI operated the three UAVs over the skies of Fort Benning near Columbus, Ga. A single plane was initially designated as the leader and commanded to fly autonomous orbits. The two “follower” UAVs joined the orbits, flying with rotational offsets of 15 and 30 degrees, respectively, from the leader.

“There are logistical challenges with quickly getting multiple planes in the air,” said Charles Pippin, a GTRI senior research scientist who led development of the autonomy algorithms.

The lead UAV shared its current position with the follower UAVs several times per second, allowing the followers to calculate the control changes necessary to reach the desired position. The followers also used the leader’s information to send commands to their on-board autopilots, which adjusted the controls and throttle for each aircraft. GTRI’s autonomous algorithms and applications are general enough that they can be used with different UAVs and autopilot systems.

The aircraft in the Fort Benning demonstration were quarter-scale Piper Cub airframes with a wingspan of approximately eight feet. They are able to carry a mission computer, autopilot system, and sensor payloads.

Autonomous systems working in teams have numerous future applications designed to improve lives and reduce costs. For example, multiple UAVs could provide several different camera angles while searching for a missing person. While surveying hurricanes, one plane could carry a sensor to check wind speed in one area while another UAV measures energy in another. The same is true for wildfires. One vehicle could determine the size of the blaze while another uses different sensors to measure the heat or direction of the inferno.

“Multiple planes working together also provides flexibility if one aircraft fails or is diverted somewhere else during a mission,” explained Pippin.

As the use of unmanned systems becomes more prevalent, increasing levels of autonomy will become necessary to improve the safety, robustness, and quality of these systems. GTRI’s unmanned systems research has the potential to positively impact many different industries, including crop inspection and spraying, delivery of goods, wildlife management and utility inspection

“GTRI’s ongoing research in these areas will make UAVs safer, and cheaper to operate,” said Weiss.

GTRI currently conducts collaborative UAV research using a collection of different airframes. GTRI has modified these aircraft in different ways, including equipping them with RF modems and cameras. The aircraft can also be equipped with pods to carry customer-specific payloads. The aircraft have been invaluable for research on collaborative control of multiple UAVs and have enabled development of algorithms to support more sophisticated collaborative missions.

The recent UAV tests follow a 2010 GTRI demonstration at Fort Benning that featured two small-scale aircraft and a full-size self-driving automobile completing a mission without human interaction. The two projects are part of a Memorandum of Understanding GTRI has with the Army post to conduct tests of advanced technologies.

Source: http://gtri.gatech.edu/casestudy/gtri-multiple-uavs-perform-autonomous-formation-fl

Pentagon’s sole-source contracts continue to dwindle, says GAO

The Defense Department is doing its part to curb the number of sole-source contracts awarded without competition and is properly justifying—in most instances—their use to help develop small, disadvantaged businesses, an audit found.

The Government Accountability Office’s Sept. 9 report to the House and Senate Armed Services committees evaluated sole-source contracts worth more than $20 million under the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program and found that the Pentagon in fiscal 2013 continued a “significant decrease” in such contracts. It awarded five in 2013, each worth $20 million, compared with 27 contracts valued at $2 billion in 2009.

All five of the recent contracts were justified as being “in the best interest of the government,” though three of them failed to fully meet Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements that relevant officials sign off on them in a timely manner.

Fifty-five sole-source contracts were awarded under the 8(a) program over the past four years, the report found, led by the Army with 37, the Navy with 13, the Air Force with two, and three elsewhere in the department.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/defense/2014/09/pentagons-sole-source-contracts-continue-dwindle-says-gao/93899/

Court of Federal Claims rejects attempt to shoehorn what it characterizes as a contract administration matter into a bid protest

Recently, the CFC rejected a bid protest action filed by Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) with respect to one of the Army’s LOGCAP contracts. The contractor had performed the logistics and civil augmentation contract, under which the Army issued task orders for different years, on a “cost-reimbursement basis.” When the Army tried to change to a firm-fixed price arrangement for the 2013 close-out period, KBR balked and refused to submit a proposal—instead filing a bid protest action. The CFC dismissed the case, ruling that KBR did not properly invoke the court’s bid protest jurisdiction but rather was attempting to litigate a contract administration dispute.

After years of submitting cost-reimbursement proposals under the LOGCAP agreement, it seems reasonable that KBR didn’t want to switch to a firm-fixed price basis for the close-out period, as “there was ‘no way to accurately define the scope or duration of work’ and [the] ‘[l]egal, administrative compliance, audit response, vendor issues, subcontract close-out, and dispute resolution . . . are all unknowns.'”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=334576

IG says Army paid too much upgrading Russian copters

U.S. Army contracting officers overpaid an American company upgrading Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters as contract costs increased almost 70 percent, according to an audit by the Pentagon inspector general.

The Army Contracting Command has responded that it will seek to recoup $128,990 of $151,543 in what the audit called “excess fees” paid since 2010 to Columbia, Maryland-based Science and Engineering Services Inc. The remaining $22,553 in fees was justified, according to the audit by the inspector general dated July 28.

While the amounts wouldn’t put a dent in the Pentagon’s $496 billion annual base budget, the inspector general’s report is the latest of three to question the contracting practices of an Army-run office set up in 2010 to manage the purchase and maintenance of foreign-made helicopters such as the medium-lift Mi-17 transport helicopters sold to U.S. allies Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-12/u-s-army-paid-too-much-upgrading-russian-copters-audit.html

Contracting officers given overly high marks by Army

Army contracting apparently is like the schools at Lake Wobegon — everybody is above average.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fell victim to the biggest bid-rigging scandal in the history of federal procurement in 2011 — the same year the Army’s cadre of more than 5,600 contracting officers received unusually stellar job ratings.

Out of 5,670 contracting officers, just two received an unsatisfactory performance rating in fiscal 2011, while more than 60 percent of the Army’s procurement workers were given the highest rating of “role models,” according to a previously undisclosed 2013 Army Audit Agency review that found “there are few, if any, consequences for unfavorable contracting practices.”

Even personnel working in “high-risk” offices often managed to score above-average job-performance ratings, according to the report, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, which officials said signaled widespread problems of job ratings in government reviews.

“It’s not just contracting officers,” Harry Hallock, the Army’s deputy assistant secretary for procurement, acknowledged in an interview with The Washington Times on Thursday.

“It’s frankly across the Army, across DOD, across the federal government. I think over time we have had an issue with performance appraisals matching performance,” he said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jun/19/contractors-are-given-overly-high-marks-by-army/?page=all#pagebreak