Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley sent a letter this month to Department of Defense Acting Secretary Mark Esper, urging him for more information regarding contracts awarded by its Office of Net Assessment to FBI informant Stefan Halper. Halper was used by the bureau as an informant to gather information on Trump campaign volunteers during the 2016 election. Grassely stated that the information be provided no later than July 25 and he requested a full in person briefing with his committee staff on all of Halper’s contracts with the DoD.
Grassley, R-Iowa asked for the information after an audit was released by the DoD’s Inspector General’s showed that there was failure to conduct appropriate oversight of contracts awarded under the DOD. Halper had long career in the U.S. government under several GOP administrations. His connections to the CIA and FBI are extensive and he had been awarded multiple contracts with the DOD totaling $411,000 by Washington Headquarters Services on Sept. 26, 2016, for a contract that ran until this March, 2018, according to USASpending.gov.
“Shockingly, the audit found that these types of discrepancies were not unique to contracts with Professor Halper, which indicates ONA must take immediate steps to shore up its management and oversight of the contracting process,” stated Grassley.
“Accordingly, no later than July 25, 2019, please explain to the Committee the steps DoD has taken to address the recommendations that DoD IG made with respect to ONA’s contracting procedures and produce to the Committee all records related to Professor Halper’s contracts with DoD,” Grassley’s letter states. “In addition, I request that ONA provide a briefing to my Committee staff regarding the Halper contracts.”
The 74-year old professor, has rarely spoken out publicly since being outed by The Washington Post, and other news organizations, as one of the informants for the bureau who spied on the Trump campaign. He spent a career developing top-level government connections–not just through academia, as he did in Great Britain through the Cambridge Security Initiative, but through his connections in both the CIA and British MI-6. He is expected to be speaking this month at the seminar, he helped found, according to The Daily Caller.
“The results of this audit are disappointing and illustrate a systemic failure to manage and oversee the contracting process,” said Grassley, in a letter sent July, 12 to the DOD. “Time and again, DoD’s challenges with contract management and oversight are put on display. It is far past time the largest, most critical agency in this country steps up and takes immediate action to increase its efforts to stop waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars.”
According to the DoD Inspector General’s report the Office of Net Assessment (ONA) Contracting Officer’s Representatives (CORs) “did not maintain documentation of the work performed by Professor Halper or any communication that ONA personnel had with Professor Halper; therefore, ONA CORs could not provide sufficient documentation that Professor Halper conducted all of his work in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. We determined that while the ONA CORs established a file to maintain documents, they did not maintain sufficient documentation to comply with all the FAR requirements related to having a complete COR.”
Grassley had requested the audit in January, as part of his oversight and continuing investigation into the bureau’s handling of the investigation into the Trump campaign.
According to a press release issued by Grassley’s office the “letter highlights potential problems in relation to ONA’s contracts with Professor Stefan Halper, including a finding that ONA could not provide sufficient documentation that Halper conducted all of his work in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.”
Further, the IG report “also notes significant flaws in ONA’s (Office of Net Assessment) contract management and oversight processes.”
In 2016, Halper was an integral part of the FBI’s investigation into short-term Trump campaign volunteer, Carter Page and George Papadopolous. Halper first made contact with Page at his seminar in July 2016. Page, who was already on the FBI’s radar, was accused at the time of being sympathetic to Russia. Halper stayed in contact with Page until September 2017.
During that time, the FBI sought and obtained a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to spy on Page and used Halper to collect information on him, according to sources.
The House Intelligence Committee Russia report and documents obtained by this outlet revealed that the bulk of the warrant against Page relied heavily on the unverified and now debunked dossier compiled by Former British Spy Christopher Steele.
READ GRASSLEY’S LETTER TO DOD BELOW:
Dear Acting Secretary Esper:
On January 16, 2019, I requested that the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General (DoD IG) review whether Department of Defense Office of Net Assessment (ONA) contracts with Professor Stefan Halper were used to support potential partisan political or other improper or wasteful activities. On July 2, 2019, DoD IG provided a summary of its audit of those contracts with Professor Halper between 2012 and 2018. The DoD IG’s audit revealed significant flaws in ONA’s contract management and oversight process that clearly indicate ONA’s internal controls over taxpayer-funded work are weak or non-existent. This is just one example of why DoD is unable to earn clean opinions on its annual financial audits.
The audit of Professor Halper’s contracts noted all four of his contracts with ONA “did not require Professor Halper to submit justification or obtain prior approval before traveling.” The audit further stated that Professor Halper’s travel to Japan for one contract was paid for by a third-party, who is not identified in the audit. Additionally, ONA “did not require Professor Halper to submit any evidence that he interviewed personnel cited in his proposals and statements of work,” which includes former Russian diplomats and intelligence officers. In conclusion, the audit found that ONA “could not provide sufficient documentation that Professor Halper conducted all of his work in accordance with applicable laws and regulations,” “did not identify whether Professor Halper’s work while traveling to different countries and conducting interviews with individuals was conducted in accordance with the FAR” and that ONA “could not be certain” that payments related to his travel complied with OMB Circular A-123, Appendix C.
Shockingly, the audit found that these types of discrepancies were not unique to contracts with Professor Halper, which indicates ONA must take immediate steps to shore up its management and oversight of the contracting process. Accordingly, no later than July 25, 2019, please explain to the Committee the steps DoD has taken to address the recommendations that DoD IG made with respect to ONA’s contracting procedures and produce to the Committee all records related to Professor Halper’s contracts with DoD. In addition, I request that ONA provide a briefing to my Committee staff regarding the Halper contracts.
I anticipate that your written reply and most responsive documents will be unclassified. Please send all unclassified material directly to the Committee. In keeping with the requirements of Executive Order 13526, if any of the responsive documents do contain classified information, please segregate all unclassified material within the classified documents, provide all unclassified information directly to the Committee, and provide a classified addendum to the Office of Senate Security. Although the Committee complies with all laws and regulations governing the handling of classified information, it is not bound, absent its prior agreement, by any handling restrictions.