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5 UTAH CONGRESSMEN BLAST ARMY FOR ENDING PACT WITH CONTRACTOR

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Utah's five members of Congress attacked the U.S. Army Monday for giving a contract to a Utah defense contractor, then quickly taking it away and handing it to a competitor who supposedly makes a more dangerous product.

They signed a letter asking the Army to stop work by the competitor and to hold hearings on "irregularities" in the case.IRECO Inc., a Utah manufacturer of explosives, was given a contract on June 14 to build a system that uses liquid explosives pumped into preset pipes to create barrier trenches that tanks cannot cross - a system that has been under consideration for 10 years.

Five days later, the Army issued a stop-work order - which is unusual without a formal protest being filed by someone. A protest was filed two days later by Atlas, a competitor.

IRECO's contract was subsequently terminated and given instead to Atlas. IRECO protested, and a stop order on Atlas was placed, then rescinded, and placed again after complaints by the U.S. General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress.

"After reviewing this situation, we believe that a number of irregular procedures have been used regarding this contract," Utah's five members of Congress wrote Monday to Army Secretary P.W. Stone.

"We urge you to continue the stop-work order on Atlas until the General Accounting Office has had the opportunity to review IRECO's protest."

They also asked for a formal hearing to publicly review findings of the investigation into the matter now being conducted by the General Accounting Office.

Besides the delegation letter headed up by Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, earlier also wrote a separate complaint to Stone.

"I am greatly distressed by what appears to be unfair and irresponsible treatment by the Department of the Army of a contractor in my district, IRECO," Owens wrote.

"I stongly believe that the Army has violated the Competition in Contracting Act and the Federal Acquisition Regulations by treating IRECO and Atlas on unequal bases," Owens added.

Owens said the Army helped Atlas in the bidding process by pointing out weaknesses in its proposal, changed provisions in ways that benefitted Atlas and took an unproven explosive technology "proven to have substantial technical difficulties."