Lawmaker wants Navy to answer for $21 million wasted at Norfolk shipyard

At least one member of Congress has taken notice of a newly disclosed investigation that found employees at the Navy’s largest shipyard ran an expensive and unauthorized police force for more than a decade.

In a letter to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) demanded to know what actions the Navy has taken to discipline any employees who were found to have been at fault in the long-running scandal at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, why no one was prosecuted, and what steps the service has taken to prevent similar occurrences at other bases.

An internal investigation by Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), which was first reported by Federal News Radio, found that at least $21 million in public funds was wasted by shipyard employees and supervisors as they amassed unauthorized weapons and vehicles — including an armored personnel carrier — going so far as to manufacture their own license plates for the illicitly-acquired fleet.

“There is no plausible explanation for the egregious waste, misuse of federal property and outright theft that was allowed to occur under numerous commanding officers,” Speier said in a statement. “No one in the Navy appeared to demonstrate any concern about these abuses, despite obvious red flags. Seven different commanding officers were either oblivious to or complicit with what was going on. Either way, the public deserves accountability and I expect real answers to my questions about this violation of the public’s trust.”

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Federal News Radio posed similar questions to NAVSEA prior to publication of the story, but did not receive a response. Speier asked Spencer to deliver a reply within two weeks.

A presentation compiled by a senior investigator in the NAVSEA inspector general’s office estimated that $10.4 million was wasted in unjustifiable purchases of law enforcement equipment, since the shipyard security department in question is not a law enforcement agency. It also cited $10.6 million in excess hiring, including for positions that were allegedly given to friends and family of the shipyard’s assistant security director.

The investigator, Peter Lintner, said none of the funds had been recovered, nor had the 92 improperly acquired vehicles or an additional $4 million in “highly-pilferable” property.

In her letter to Spencer, which was courtesy copied to Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, Speier, the ranking Democrat on the House military personnel subcommittee, said the investigation’s findings were especially troubling in light of the Navy’s persistent complaints about insufficient operation and maintenance funds.

“I have heard multiple urgent pleas from the Pentagon for more funding to address a ‘readiness crisis,’ with shipyard maintenance highlighted as an urgent concern,” she wrote. “It’s therefore particularly concerning that the Navy could allow such waste to continue for years.”

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