04/11/2011 04:44 pm ET | Updated Jun 11, 2011

Bribery Case Sparks Navy Anti-Corruption Panel

By Colin Clark
Editor, AOL Defense

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Navy's top civilian, worried about the implications of a recent bribery case, has established a special panel to search for and plug any holes in the service's anti-corruption defenses.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced creation of the special review team, to be led by his general counsel, in his annual speech at the Navy League's Sea-Air-Space convention.

"We had this situation where people had been indicted for giving bribes to a Navy shipbuilding official for preferential treatment. That got my attention," he told reporters after his speech. The move comes a month after Mabus, a former prosecutor in Mississippi, ordered that all contracts with Advanced Solutions for Tomorrow, Inc., a Georgia firm whose president has been charged with fraud against the government, be discontinued.

An indictment was handed down Feb. 8 against the company in United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island. A Navy systems engineer and the founder and president of ASFT were accused of bribery of a public official in connection with an alleged ongoing kickback scheme involving roughly $10 million.

Among other contracts, ASFT provided engineering and technical services for submarine combat systems and command and control systems support to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Newport Division.

When Mabus froze all contracts with the Georgia company, a lower level special review team was created "to determine how contract and financial processes operated in this case, as compared with the processes set forth in applicable laws, regulations, and other guidance; and to recommend improvements to processes that will mitigate the risk of fraud in the future," according to a Navy news story. The more senior panel created by Mabus will review this group's findings and decide if the Navy needs to do more.

Mabus also told reporters that last week's last-minute budget deal cleared the way for the service to start work on the second Virginia class submarine and two DDG 51s. It will also let the Navy start work on nuclear reactors for the next carrier in line to get a new reactor, and, perhaps most importantly with the war in Afghanistan and the no-fly operations above Libya, the service can restart crucial maintenance work at both public and private shipyards. Mabus said several ships had lost their places in line for refits because of the serial continuing resolutions used to fund the government until Friday.

Overall, he said, "the fact that we have that budget certainty now will make our operations much easier."

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