Federal Executives Under Fire Should Be Fired

The “Federal Times” in a front page article on December 1, 2014, written by Andy Medici, indicated that the Senior Executive Service (SES) needed a major overhaul in the wake of recent scandals and criticism from lawmakers.

Former SES employees stated that things could be improved by increasing pay and incentives, by emphasizing positive achievements of SES’s rather than negative actions, and by encouraging movement between agencies.

Are you kidding me?  How will the SES’s be held accountable for mismanagement by giving them more money, bragging on them, and shuffling them around between agencies?  Well, just consider the source.

I was a fraud attorney for the Air Force, Navy, and Marines.  I proposed criminal prosecution against SES members who broke the laws.  None of them were ever prosecuted.  I worked for over four decades in the military and only rarely were there consequences for SES’s when they violated laws.  And there were few consequences for incompetent and inept SES’s.

My opinion for over four decades remains the same.  They need to be prosecuted for unlawful activities and fired for incompetence.  The average salary for these overpaid managers is about $166,000.  In 2016, over half of these SES’s will be eligible to retire.  This would be a good time to recruit competent supervisors from the private sector.  The system of promoting home grown federal employees into management positions has only advanced the best “suck up’s” and career advocates in the system, who were not competent enough to enter private practice.  Over the years, the federal government loses its best employees because they can make more money on the outside and they get tired of working for incompetent management.

There are outstanding retired supervisors from the private sector, who would jump at the chance to help improve the federal government.  Simply downsize the pool of SES employees through attrition.  Don’t hire replacements for those who retire.  The federal government will be better without them in the work force.  Then take that money and hire former managers from companies to run quality control surveys throughout the federal government.  These managers must have power to fire the remaining SES’s and any federal employees.  They should also be empowered to make changes that will improve our government.  They must be given the ability to recommend prosecution and terminations for cause.

Federal executives who are under fire for incompetence should be terminated.

Where Is the Social Security Trust Fund?

Do you know where your Social Security Trust Fund is located?  Where is the $2.6 trillion trust fund that has been collecting Social Security taxes for decades and is considered to be “untouchable” by Congress?  This question might be similar to the questions about where the Loch Ness Monster is hiding or where the Yeti is living?  Did the federal government place this trust fund in Area 51?  Where is it?

Well, it doesn’t exist or at least not in the typical way we expect to see trust funds invested.  If you and I were to start a savings or trust account, we would have cash and securities or something physical funding the account that we could touch and withdraw if we needed the savings.

The Social Security Trust Fund has no cash or securities.  This trust fund receives I.O.U.s from the federal Treasury, which takes the daily Social Security taxes and includes them in its general fund.  The “untouchable” Trust Fund is funded with “special-issue securities” from the Treasury, which are loans that the Treasury must repay.

In effect, the Social Security Trust Fund is a “fairy tale” account that not only is a fiction, but the $2.6 trillion dollar fund promised to the public was spent many years ago.  There is nothing left of this fund, but “smoke and mirrors” of the federal government.  Each year, Social Security has to obtain money from the Treasury in order to fund its cash-flow deficit.  If the Treasury does not provide the cash, there is no fund to cover this amount.

This makes a very interesting lie that the government has foisted on the public.  The government has told us for decades that the Social Security has a dedicated revenue stream and a separate “untouchable” trust account that should not be considered as part of our budget deficit.  The truth is that the Social Security funding should be part of the federal budget deceit and deficit.  It should be included in our federal budget deficit because it comes directly from the Treasury each year just like any other federal payments.  It is no different than any other non-funded Treasury expense.

When is Incompetence Fraud?

The Air Force announced in April of 2012 that it had spent seven years and one billion dollars on a logistics management system that didn’t work.  This system was part of a defense-wide program to modernize management of logistics, finances, and other business operations.  So, is this just the tip of the iceberg?

Probably so.  There are six other defense enterprise systems that are years behind schedule and are already $8 billion over budget.  You lose a billion here, you lose a billion there.  Now, you’re talking real money.

What’s going on?  How could acquisition and program leaders in the Air Force miss the warning signals over seven years?  The Air Force continued to pay Computer Sciences Corp. year after year even though there were numerous delays and 2,000 design flaws.  The system once touted as revolutionizing the management of parts and equipment is basically worthless today.

Is this fraud?  It’s certainly waste and abuse, but is it fraud?  Well, it certainly deserves investigators attention and looking into the contract.  The prime contractor, Computer Sciences, wrote some of the system’s requirements as to how it should operate.  Why was the prime contractor writing its own requirements?  That sounds like a conflict of interest on its face.  It is possible that the contract was awarded before these requirements were developed, but it still smells.

And is it fraud when government leaders and contractors are so incompetent that they consume a billion dollars in taxpayer’s money for nothing in return?  It seems that these individuals should be held accountable for their gross negligence just the same as if they intentionally committed fraud.  In other words, if you do or fail to do that which a reasonably prudent person would have done under the same or similar circumstances, you should be liable for fraud if these actions or failures to act show a complete disregard for the consequences.

It is high time for the Department of Justice and Inspector General’s to take criminal action against incompetent acquisition leaders and contractors.  There must be consequences or these large amounts of money will continue to plunge into the federal black hole where taxpayer’s money gets us nothing in return.

The question in the case of the Computer Sciences Corp. contract is why it took so long for Air Force leaders in both acquisition and program offices to determine that there was a problem.  As long as leadership is never held accountable, then there will never be any improvement.  Fraud, waste, and abuse will continue gobbling up taxpayer’s dollars.  But we aren’t talking millions.  We are talking billions.

Consumers Will Consume Anything

American consumers will buy just about anything. For example, we buy the McRib without even asking what is in it. Would you believe it has a mixture of tripe, heart, and scalded stomach, which is then mixed with salt and water to extract proteins from the muscle-meats?

The proteins bind all the pork trimmings together so that it can be re-molded into any specific shape — in this case, a fake slab of ribs. The 500 calorie sandwich has 70 ingredients, including azodicarbonamide, a flour-bleaching agent often used in the production of foamed plastics. All this sounds appetizing to me. How about you?

A popular ad on television shows an attractive young lady who believes everything on the internet. In fact, she has a date with a French model that she met on the internet. He comes up to her and says, “Bonjour,” in a really bad French accent.

Another popular ad shows restaurants slicing their meat at manufacturing locations instead of at the store. The idea is to make the public believe that slicing meat at the restaurant makes it fresher. I wonder if that restaurant sliced unrefrigerated two-week-old meat at the store if it would be fresher? Like I said, American consumers bite into anything anymore.

We have lost our ability to think for ourselves.  Of course, politicians have known this for years.

America’s Future is All That Matters

America is going deeper and deeper into debt.  The media talks about the “fiscal cliff” as if we can do a few things and take care of our problem before 2013.  That’s not exactly correct.  We have to Cut federal government Immediately, Permanently, and Substantially (CLIPS) in order to protect America for our progeny.  America will still fall over that cliff if we only make small changes.  We all (emphasis added) must give up our current comforts because only the future matters.

America’s future should be our only focus.  The past is past, and the present just became the past.  Only the future matters.  We add more than a trillion dollars to our debt each year.  The only way to save America is to cut our government by 50% or more.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if after cutting our federal government in half if our government became a better government?  We could have local governments and privatized groups fill in any critical openings left by the federal government cuts.  And we could hire former CEOs and CFOs of corporations to monitor the federal government, eliminating Senior Executive Service (SES) employees who only manage their careers.

I was an acquisition fraud attorney for the Air Force, Navy, and Marines, and I was astounded at the amount of fraud, waste & abuse in the federal government.  It is time to eliminate this fraud for our future.  Cut the government in half.  I worked in all four military services and found rampant fraud, waste & abuse.  All four services might be paying the same company for exactly the same research.  It was a waste of taxpayer’s dollars.  We train jointly and we fight jointly, so why do we spend money separately.  We should combine the four services into one “purple” joint military.  We could easily save 50% of our defense budget if we became a joint service.

The federal government will never monitor or manage itself, so we must erase the problem – which is the federal government.  The federal government does not have a capitalistic bone in its entire body, so it must be substantially reduced in size and expense to protect the future of our democracy and freedom.  Americans do not need such a huge federal government.  We are not that weak.  But we will be weak if the federal government continues to drain our resources.

I want to see all the federal retirees, including myself, receive no Cost of Living Adjustments and receive reduced pensions.  I want to see all existing federal employees stepping up to receive reduced pensions and benefits.  I want to see Congressmen doing the right thing by reducing their salary and benefits.  I am asking everybody to make the future brighter by shouldering a part of the burden.  We all have to assume that burden.  Nobody gets a free pass, not even those, including myself, who are on Social Security.  We must fix Medicare and Medicaid.  Everybody has to work together to save America from going over the cliff.  Unfortunately, right now that is our future.

We all have to lose weight and tighten our belts for the future of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  The future is much more important than your present salary and benefits.  The future of America is all that matters.

Same Old Story

An Army master sergeant has pleaded guilty to accepting thousands of dollars in gratuities from contractors during his deployment to Iraq as a field ordering officer at a forward operating base, The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that 52-year-old Master Sgt. Julio Soto Jr. of Columbus, Georgia., pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to accept illegal gratuities.

Authorities say Soto and a co-conspirator sought, received and accepted illegal gratuities for helping Iraqi contractors gain U.S. government contracts, then used the gratuities to purchase postal money orders and mail them to the United States. Soto faces up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release. Under his plea agreement, he agreed to pay $62,542 plus interest in restitution to the U.S.

I have seen this same story play out time and time again.  When I worked acquisition fraud first in the Air Force and next in the Navy and Marines, I saw this occur.  In my last assignment, I handled the fraud cases in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This type of case was not unusual.  And it looks like things haven’t changed that much.

The problem is that there is less oversight at these forward operating bases.  They are in dangerous places, so who is going out there to provide oversight?

What is the answer?  Well, part of the answer is in providing consequences to these soldiers.  The word has to get out that they are being monitored closely and if they are caught, there will be severe penalties.  We don’t have to catch all of the people committing fraud, but we need to make sure that there are consequences from these activities.  Another part is in providing better training to our troops who are involved in contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These young service members sometimes get caught up in a culture that accepts bribes as a part of business.  Better training, which emphasizes consequences, would help.  The rest of the answer is found in the question:  Why are we still in Iraq and Afghanistan?  What is our national security interest that is at stake?

A Culture of Fraud, Waste & Abuse

Gen. William “Kip” Ward, a four-star Army general who was the first head of the new U.S. Africa Command, is under investigation and facing possible demotion for allegedly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars so that his family and other unauthorized people could make trips at government expense.  Even though the total amount spent has not been disclosed, it has been compared to the $823,000, allegedly spent by GSA employees at a Las Vegas resort.

Gen. Ward has been under investigation for about 17 months, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to make a final decision on the matter before the end of the month.  Ward is facing numerous allegations that he allowed unauthorized people to fly on government planes, and spent excessive amounts of money on hotel rooms, transportation and other expenses when he traveled as head of Africa Command.

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  There is an ethical culture problem within the federal government.  This culture is one permitting fraud, waste & abuse in the government.  I served in all four services either as a JAG or as a fraud attorney in the Office of General Counsel, and I have seen this government pandemic grow exponentially over the last four decades.  My last attorney positions were handling fraud cases for the Air Force, Navy, and Marines.  I was privy to many fraud cases involving federal employees.

The Bottom Line is: there are few consequences.  If high ranking officers and civilians did a risk assessment, they would conclude that the benefits of committing fraud far outweigh the risks of getting caught.  And even if they are caught, they probably will not be prosecuted.  And even if they are prosecuted, the punishment is minimal.  As you can see, they have reason to be optimistic about getting away with fraud, waste & abuse.

Many of my fraud cases against these high ranking officers and civilians were never prosecuted even though we had sufficient evidence.  I was astonished at how much these officials are protected, no matter what they have done.

As long as there are insignificant prosecutions and punishments, these white-collar crimes will continue to eat into the moral fabric of our federal government until fraud, waste, and abuse will be the normal way of doing business in our government.  That’s assuming that we aren’t already at that point.

Thoughts on Independence Day

This July 4th is the best of times, but it also may be the worst of times.  Americans still have their fragile democracy and freedoms, but they are facing tremendous economic burdens that could crush our system.

As a retired military and civilian member who served in all four services, I saw America at her best during the First Gulf War with President George H. Bush at the helm.  Then I saw our government falter with poor decisions being made during the following wars.  As an acquisition fraud attorney, I also witnessed significant increases in fraud, waste, and abuse throughout the federal government.  I watched as our democracy and capitalism were being replaced by socialism and “government bailouts.”  I was astonished at the growth and expansion of the federal government over the past few decades, sapping the strength of America and jeopardizing its heartbeat.

My proposal to turn things around is fairly simple, through CLIPS: Cut Levels Immediately, Permanently, and Substantially of the federal government.  As the federal government is downsized, we can rely more on privatization and local governments to pick up the slack.

Pray that our progeny will have many July 4th celebrations ahead.

No Federal Oversight or Consequences

If you let your children run free without any oversight or allowed them to do anything they wanted without consequences, what would happen?  So, is the federal government any different?  Have federal managers and employees become delinquents and criminals without any moral restraint?

The latest scandals within the federal government involve the General Services Administration’s $800,000 training conference in Sin City and the Secret Service agents getting caught soliciting prostitutes in Columbia.  Both these incidents are examples of inappropriate behavior that evidence lack of oversight and consequences within the federal government.

I worked in the federal government for the last four decades, and I have seen the moral fiber of the government degeneraate.  These incidents, unfortunately, are not unique.  I know personally that this conduct is rampant throughout the federal government.

I know of senior executive service (SES) managers who drive luxury convertibles on personal exotic vacations at the government’s expense.  Since there is no oversight, nobody is holding them accountable.  I also am aware of thousands of “boondoggles” that are paid for by taxpayers.  I also am aware of unbelievable fraud, waste, and abuse in the federal government that goes on every minute of every day because there are no consequences.

Billions of dollars are spent each year on overlapping and duplicating government programs.  There also are billions of taxpayer dollars squandered on wasteful and fraudulent programs.  Who is minding the store?  In many cases, nobody.

Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma admitted that Congress is “numb to stupidity and waste.”  There are so many Bridges to Nowhere that Congress doesn’t even pay attention to them anymore.  Oversight is boring and hard work.  Congressmen are more interested in getting programs with pork that generate votes for them or that interest lobbyists .  Congressional oversight has a very low priority.  It is so low that in many cases, it doesn’t exist.

And both parties are to blame.  Both Democrats and Republicans fail equally and miserably.  They point the fingers at each other.  So the voters believe that the last party was the culprit when, in reality, the next politician they vote for will be no different.  Investigators and agents tell me that the tea party Congressmen have turned out to be no different.

Most Americans have no idea how bad it has become in the federal government.  The federal managers and leaders are so arrogant today that they openly commit fraud against the taxpayers.  I have heard them say that they don’t care what their employees do as long as they don’t make waves and draw attention to them.  They have lost touch with both American citizens and reality.

All this is a recipe for failure of our system.  In my opinion, the entire federal government should be fired for fraud and incompetence.  It would be interesting if we eliminated the federal government and then relied entirely on state and local government if things would be better.  If there is no federal oversight or consequences, then try no federal government.  I bet we wouldn’t even miss it.

 

Obamateurism vs. Law

President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, which could add $530 billion more to the federal budget deficit, is before the Supreme Court to determine if Congress overstepped its authority to regulate commerce, making the law unconstitutional.

One of the questions before the Supreme Court is whether individuals may be forced to buy health insurance and thus engage in commerce, which then will be regulated?  In other words, can citizens be coerced into being regulated?

I was a fraud acquisition attorney for over seven years with the Air Force, Navy, and Marines, and I am amazed that basic law has taken a second seat to partisan
politics.  I call President Obama’s attempts to force this law through the judicial branch as “Obamateurism.”

We need innovative thinking as described in my fist book, “A Warrior for All Times,” rather than political thinking.

Forcing Americans to sign contracts with insurance companies flies in the face of basic contact law, requiring willing parties to reach an agreement.  Contracts in order to be binding must be made by parties who are free to make or refuse the contract.  Parties to the contract must mutually assent to the terms without duress.

There must be no coercion, and Obamacare compels citizens to enter contracts under threats of penalties.

The Tenth Amendment lists those powers uniquely reserved to the states and the people.  The Supreme Court has restricted Congress from compelling contracts in the past.

Even though Obama stated that the Supreme Court cannot overturn legislation, it has been doing it for decades.  Politics does not trump the law.