US: General Misled Lawmakers on KBR Work, Senator Says

Publisher Name: 
The New York Times

WASHINGTON - 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, 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
Pentagon's 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.

"I believe General Johnson presented evidence that deceived Congress," 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 "either an attempt by Gen.
Johnson to deliberately deceive the Congress, or a display of negligent
disregard for facts that were known to the Pentagon."

Mr.
Dorgan also released a letter from the Pentagon's inspector general,
dated April 29, stating that it had opened an inquiry into General
Johnson's 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 Army's 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
Pentagon's 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 Pentagon's inspector general notified the Pentagon
in writing on March 31, 2007, that it had found problems with KBR's
performance on its water contract. General Johnson's April 19 testimony
came just weeks later.

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

"I 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," 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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