While Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) tops the news in the unfolding earmarks-for-bribes investigations, also under scrutiny is House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA). For the most part, interest has been focused on companies led by defense contractors Brent Wilkes and Mitchell Wade. But as the investigations have expanded, questions are increasingly being raised about the relationships between other defense contractors and legislators.
Perhaps worth a look: the actions of Hunter vis-à-vis San Diego’s Titan Corporation.
In recent years, Titan has also continued to enjoy a generous flow of Pentagon money--in part thanks to Duncan Hunter and the "queen of earmarks" Letitia White. Between 2003 and 2005, Titan retained White to look after its interests as the FY 04, 05, and 06 armed services and intelligence authorization and appropriations bills were crafted. (Titan has also been a top contributor to White's former boss Rep. Jerry Lewis.)
Included in some bills, for example, are earmarks beyond what the Pentagon requested for two Navy projects, the experimental Sea Fighter LCS(X) craft and the Affordable Weapons System (AWS). Both projects have been championed by Hunter, and are contracted by Titan.
Both projects, however, have not been met with universal acclaim within the Navy. Though the AWS--touted as a cheap, off-the-shelf alternative to the Tactical Tomahawk--has consistently been praised in House Armed Services Committee reports, a Navy report recently submitted to Congress was less sanguine about the project that Hunter has earmarked $27 million for in the latest House Defense Authorization bill. An excerpt from the Navy communique as reported in a May 29, 2006, Inside the Navy story:
Originally the [Affordable Weapon System] provided much promise, however, it has experienced many technical difficulties resulting in zero successful test flights. Numerous non-Navy initiated engineering changes have significantly increased the cost of the missile. While AWS continues to receive Congressional funding, there are a number of other missile concepts that may provide similar solutions...at a reduced cost.
In case of the Sea Fighter LCS(X) craft, $25.7 million was earmarked in the latest defense authorization bill. Yet the LCS(X), according to the National Journal's Megan Scully, who also took a look at Hunter's Titan ties today:
...does not have a place in the Navy's ambitious 313-ship plan, which [Congressional Budget Office] already views as potentially unaffordable. And the vessel has spent two of the last four months dry-docked for major repairs to its propulsion and other systems.
"For a ship that's brand new, it has a lot of problems," said one Navy official.
-- Jason Vest