DynCorp and Northrop Suckered Pentagon into Paying Employees more than 24 Hours a Day for Narco-Terrorism Programs

Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Northrop employees at work on an F-35 simulator (photo: Northrop Grumman)

In the world of government contracting, overcharges are nothing new with the Department of Defense. But what is unique about the ridiculous overbilling by two top security contractors is that they managed to charge the Pentagon for working more than 24 hours a day while helping with a counter-narcotics program.


The two fibbers in this case were DynCorp, which has been criticized for its contracting work in Afghanistan, and Northrop Grumman, maker of high-end weapons for the U.S. military.


Northrop was the bigger of the two at fault, due to it being the main contractor on a deal to support the Counter Narco-terrorism Technology Program Office (CNTPO). DynCorp was the subcontractor on the deal, which resulted in the two businesses overcharging the government somewhere between $91 million and $123 million for thousands of hours in questionable billing.


Northrop billed $3.2 million for 29,401 labor hours in excess of 24 hours per day, according to a Pentagon inspector general’s (IG) report (pdf) obtained by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), an independent watchdog organization.


The overcharges in some cases were just absurd, like the one contract employee who allegedly worked 1,208 hours over a 12-day span.


In actuality, 12 days consists of 288 hours. To have worked 1,208 hours during that time, the average earth day would have had to expand to more than 100 hours.


The companies also were caught over-classifying workers for jobs for which they lacked qualifications, or claiming they juggled multiple jobs at the same time.


There’s no question about that people can multitask. But a depot aircraft mechanic was also classified by Northrop as senior general engineer, an integrated logistics manager, a quality assurance manager, a program manager, a senior pilot, and a senior technical writer.


“Northrop billed 16,270 hours over a 5-year period for this apparent jack-of-all-trades, receiving nearly $2 million,” POGO’s Neil Gordon wrote. “However, the IG found that the employee’s work history and education only qualified him as a mechanic, and only 161 of his hours were properly billed.”


The Pentagon IG first learned of the contractor overbilling from a tip that came through on a whistleblower hotline. To date there have been no reports of any sanctions or disciplinary actions being taken against DynCorp, Northrop, or the U.S. Army personnel who managed the contracts.


As with so many other defense industry programs, the custom of defense contractor overbilling and the Defense Department’s failure to either catch it or stop it appears to be systemic, based on a pattern of this activity that goes back at least five years. In 2011 the IG’s office reviewed the CNTPO program and found that the Army’s failed contractor oversight allowed multiple overpayments of contractor invoices:  $815,000 in excess payments made to Raytheon, $168,279 to Northrop, and $77,000 to U.S. Training Center (a division of Academi, the company originally known as Blackwater). The IG had discovered the same kind of problems in 2009.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

DynCorp, Northrop Overcharge for Anti-Terrorism Program (Project on Government Oversight)

Northrop Grumman Improperly Charged Labor for the Counter Narco-terrorism Technology Program (Department of Defense, Inspector General) (pdf)

More than Two-Thirds of Afghanistan Reconstruction Money has Gone to One Company: DynCorp International (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

War is Wonderful…If You’re a Weapons Maker (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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