THE BLOG
03/19/2009 09:11 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

KBR Work Presents 'Security Risk' Says Pentagon Official

Thousands without background checks may have been given access to military bases at home and abroad.

In what appears to be a stunning lack of due diligence, the Pentagon has allowed private contractors to grant civilians access to military bases, including in highly sensitive areas like Iraq and Afghanistan, without evidence of appropriate background checks.

The revelations were detailed in a recent report that the Acting Inspector General of the Department Defense, Gordon S. Heddell, delivered to the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. The report describes how, since 2002, Common Access Cards -- the IDs that both troops and civilians use to pass through military checkpoints around the world - may have been granted to nearly 40,000 civilians without proper vetting.

At the February 26th subcommittee hearing, Heddell painted a picture of a chaotic system operated by KBR and other contractors who have increasingly taken over functions typically left to the government.

"We are concerned," said Heddell, "because of what we think are potentially extremely weak internal controls."

According to Heddell, KBR and other private contractors went around Department of Defense procedures and approved ID cards, known as CAC cards, for civilian employees of their choosing.

As such, proper background checks were never confirmed on an estimated 39,000 contractors who pass through military gates on a daily basis.

News of this security threat sparked bipartisan concern about the unprecedented use of private contractors by the U.S. military. Republican Bill Young of Florida is one of those disturbed by the possible dangers posed by the lack of oversight.

Click on the video below to hear his comments.

The IG's audit also found other problems with the access cards:
• About 40,000 contractors were misidentified on their access cards as being government employees when they were, in fact, civilians.
• Over 200,000 contractor personnel had email addresses that misclassified the contractor personnel as U.S. Government personnel.
• 36,000 contractors have CAC cards with inaccurate or unsupportable expiration dates.
• More than 7,000 revoked or terminated cards have never been recovered.

"This misidentification is a potential security risk," warned Heddell, "because contractors could misrepresent themselves both in person and on DoD networks to improperly obtain sensitive information."

Although the problem is worldwide, security at bases in highly sensitive war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan are of particular concern.

According to Heddell's study, as many as 25,428 U.S. and foreign national KBR contractors who deployed in support of Southwest Asia operations may have unauthorized access to DoD resources, installations, and sensitive information worldwide.

At the March 12th subcommittee hearing on protecting the troops, the CAC card issue came up again. Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) quizzed Lt. General J.D. Thurman, the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, about whether KBR and others are still issuing access cards, Thurman was unable to respond directly.

Click on the video below to see the exchange.

When Moran continued to object to private contractors taking on the "inherently governmental" role of approving base access, Lt. General Ross Thompson chimed in with an extraordinary claim: Things have been tightened up, he said, and every contract worker is currently subjected to an iris scan or fingerprint check before being allowed onto a military installation.

Click on the video below to see the exchange.

ANP checked Thompson's account with someone who spent years checking IDs at military bases in the US and overseas, including Camp Victory (in Iraq) and Camp Spearhead in (Kuwait). A Navy master-at-arms, he wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

Here's his reaction to Thompson's claim: "I'd have to throw the BS flag on that..."

Click on the video below to hear his comments.

Despite the rather explosive claims made at the hearing, the press has paid little attention to this issue. The Pentagon, meanwhile, seems to be in a state of denial -- or delusion -- regarding CAC cards, base security, and the DoD's unprecedented dependency on private contractors.

Danielle Ivory contributed to this report.