Pentagon officials are investigating some $6 billion in military contracts, most covering supplies as varied as bottled water, tents and latrines for troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The inquiries have resulted in charges against at least 29 civilians and soldiers, more than 75 other criminal investigations and the suicides of at least two officers. They have prompted the Pentagon, the largest purchasing agency in the world, to overhaul its war-zone procurement system.
Much of the scrutiny has focused on the contracting office where Major Cockerham worked at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, a world away from Castor in more than miles. Until the buildup to the war in Iraq, it was a tiny outpost with a staff of 7 to 12 people who awarded about $150 million a year in contracts, according to Bryon J. Young, a retired Army colonel and the current director of the Army Contracting Agency.
But when tens of thousands of soldiers began pouring through Kuwait, Mr. Young said in an interview, his agency was forced to entrust nearly $4 billion over the next four years to what he described as a B team of civilians and military officers with limited contracting experience. It was a setting flush with money, he said, but lacking the safeguards to prevent contracting officials from taking it. [complete article]