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US: General Misled Lawmakers on KBR Work, Senator Says

by JAMES RISENThe New York Times
July 10th, 2008

WASHINGTON ó A top Democratic senator on Wednesday accused an Army general of misleading Congress about problems with a major defense contractor in Iraq, and said he had asked Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to investigate.

The senator, Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, said at a hearing that Maj. Gen. Jerome Johnson, who was commander of the Army Sustainment Command until last year, made inaccurate statements to the Senate Armed Services Committee about problems with water supplied to American soldiers in Iraq by KBR Inc." href="">KBR, the largest defense contractor in Iraq.

Mr. Dorgan said General Johnson told the committee in April 2007 that there were no widespread problems with water supplied by KBR, after the Pentagonís inspector general had already found that there were. According to Mr. Dorgan, General Johnson testified after the inspector general had already briefed Defense Department officials about the findings.

ďI believe General Johnson presented evidence that deceived Congress,Ē Mr. Dorgan said in an interview.

Mr. Dorgan provided a copy of a letter he wrote to Mr. Gates in March in which he said that the 2007 testimony was ďeither an attempt by Gen. Johnson to deliberately deceive the Congress, or a display of negligent disregard for facts that were known to the Pentagon.Ē

Mr. Dorgan also released a letter from the Pentagonís inspector general, dated April 29, stating that it had opened an inquiry into General Johnsonís testimony.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said Wednesday that she could not comment on the matter.

General Johnson was commander of the Army Field Support Command, later renamed the Army Sustainment Command, from June 2004 until July 2007. That placed him in charge of managing the Armyís relationship with KBR, the Houston-based contractor providing food, shelter and other basic services for American soldiers in Iraq.

Beginning in 2006, whistleblowers told Congress that there were serious problems with the nonpotable water supplied to soldiers through the KBR contract.

The Pentagonís inspector general later issued a report that confirmed that KBR had failed to provide safe nonpotable water for hygiene uses at several bases in Iraq.

In his letter to Mr. Gates, Senator Dorgan said that the Pentagonís inspector general notified the Pentagon in writing on March 31, 2007, that it had found problems with KBRís performance on its water contract. General Johnsonís April 19 testimony came just weeks later.

Mr. Dorgan said that General Johnson must have known about the inspector generalís findings before he testified.

ďI am writing you to ask that you consider in particular whether the testimony given by Maj. Gen. Jerome Johnson before the Senate Armed Services Committee on behalf of the Pentagon on April 19, 2007 was false,Ē Senator Dorgan said in his letter to Mr. Gates.

Since he left his position in contract management, General Johnson has been assigned to the United States Forces Command in Atlanta. A spokesman for the command did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

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