Whistleblower Exposes $32M in Unaccounted Gear at Naval Base

Federal investigators announced Monday they had sent a letter to President Trump and Congress notifying them of “mismanagement” at a unit of Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel’s letter and an accompanying 2017 report by Navy investigators were prompted by complaints from a whistleblower who previously worked at the local base.

The Navy ultimately determined that more than $32 million worth of equipment could not be accounted for because warehouse employees had failed to keep proper inventory records, Monday’s announcement said. In addition, some classified materials in the warehouses had been stored improperly.

A whistleblower exposed the sloppy handling of millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment, along with the mishandling of classified information,” Special Counsel Henry Kerner said in a statement. “This case resulted in new policies to ensure more accountability, demonstrating the kind of good-government reforms that can result when whistleblowers see a problem and speak up.

As of Tuesday morning, officials at Naval Base Ventura County did not respond to requests for comments.

A whistleblower exposed the sloppy handling of millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment, along with the mishandling of classified information. Special Counsel Henry Kerner

The Navy’s report notes problems at the warehouses had been largely improved since 2015, when the whistleblower started working there. That’s when responsibility for the warehouses was transferred to the Naval Sea Logistics Center, where he had been a supply systems analyst, according to the report by the Office of the Naval Inspector General.

The warehouses hold supplies and repair equipment for destroyers, frigates and cruisers that carry classified weapons systems, the report said. The local warehouses in question included two buildings on the base and an off-base warehouse with total storage capacity of about 110,000 square feet.

When the whisteblower took over responsibility for the warehouses, he worried he would not be able to supply ships with parts because the inventory was in such disarray, the report shows.

Ship supply personnel and others would request parts that, according to the inventory system, were stocked, “but about 25 percent of the time, he was unable to find the actual parts in the warehouse,” the report read. “He stressed that Port Hueneme is the only Navy location that stocks the relevant parts for frigates, cruisers and destroyers.”

Navy investigators weren’t able to assess whether such unfulfilled requests had ever impacted mission readiness because “such data is not captured,” the report said.

While some equipment could not be accounted for, it may simply have been improperly tracked rather than been misused or gone missing, the report said. No criminal charges were ever filed, and no personnel actions were taken.

The special counsel’s announcement Monday praised the results of the whistleblower’s complaint, and Navy investigators substantiated three of his four complaints.

Yet the accompanying report shows he was fired from the job in March 2016, roughly around the time the complaint was filed. The report names the man, John Edwards, noting he had consented to have his name released. The Star was unable to locate Edwards Monday night.

And a response letter from Edwards regarding the report, dated April 2017, shows he ultimately had misgivings about the conclusions.

Overall, the report seems to be conducted in a professional and competent manner,” he began, thanking the special counsel and Secretary of the Navy for taking his allegations seriously.

He then questioned whether investigators had actually accessed the inventory system data.

“One section of the report in particular … is so inaccurate that it makes me question the validity of the investigation in [its] entirety,” Edwards wrote. The report suggests 500 or fewer inventory errors were corrected during his employment, he wrote, while Edwards states he corrected between 4,000 to 7,000 errors during the first three months of using the new system.

“That is an egregious misrepresentation of facts,” he wrote.


Read More by Gretchen Wenner

Helmer Friedman LLP helping you navigate through the state and federal whistleblower programs that may reward you for reporting fraud.

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