Thursday, July 31, 2008

At It Again

Sen. Collins' failure to police costly, corrupt and deadly military procurement practices while chair of the Homeland Security Committee will go down in history as one of our government's seminal Iraq war failures.

But the junior senator seems not to have learned her lesson.

This week, the Homeland Security Committee considered the nomination of Jim Williams to head the General Services Administration--the federal government agency that spends $16 billion a year managing, maintaining and supplying 8,300 federal buildings.

Like so many other Bush administration appointments, the Williams nomination raised red flags from the beginning: As a GSA officer, Williams had been involved in granting a suspect, controversial contract to Sun Microsystems.

Specifically, an investigation by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) found that:

Williams pressured a GSA contracting officer to approve [the] Sun contract, even though [he] knew GSA's inspector general had detected alleged fraud and had referred the matter to the Justice Department.

"As FAS commissioner, he was the top GSA official responsible for making the tough calls, and he chose not to protect the taxpayers," Grassley said. "He made the wrong choice. He is now accountable for that decision." Because of that choice, Grassley said, Williams should not be GSA administrator.
In fact, the Justice Department later sued Sun Microsystems for fraud.

But earlier this week, Collins placed a committee vote in favor of Williams' nomination. Here she is explaining her take on his role in the Sun contract:

“I don’t know if his actions were perfect in retrospect, but I am convinced that his motivations were always in the best interest of the taxpayers” Collins said.
So Williams has good intentions. Glad that's all that matters when it comes to executive-level government service.

Look: Susan Collins knows better.

But apparently, being a team player is more important to her than learning the lessons of the past; the rewards that come from not ruffling any feathers trump her interest in fiscal discipline and good government.

It's an unfortunate story, but an interesting one. And one that deserves to be told.

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