WASHINGTON (AP) — A Pentagon investigation found a $50 million contract to promote the Thunderbirds aerial stunt team was tainted by improper influence and preferential treatment, leading to administrative action against three officials, the Air Force said Thursday.
Secretary Michael W. Wynne of the Air Force took administrative action against Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Goldfein, who was the commander responsible for the Thunderbirds at the time, as well as two others, and referred action on two additional personnel to their commanders, the service said in a statement.
Details of the inspector general’s report have not yet been released, but officials familiar with it said it did not find any criminal conduct. They said the Air Force’s chief of staff, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, came under fire in the report, but it did not find that he was personally involved in the matter. Instead, the criticism of him is largely over early communications he had with the eventual winning bidders.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the report is not public, said it is most critical of General Goldfein, who commanded the Air Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
Secretary Wynne also ordered a review of contracting processes and a training program to correct problems raised by the inquiry.
The investigation goes back to 2005, and began with accusations that General Moseley and other Air Force officers tried initially to give the work to Strategic Message Solutions and its president, Edward Shipley, without going out for bids.
The Air Force said the inspector general’s inquiry found that the contract was “tainted with improper influence, irregular contracting practices and preferential treatment for SMS.” The service also said the assistant United States attorney in Nevada had declined to pursue any criminal prosecution.
“I am deeply disappointed that our high standards were not adhered to in this case,” Secretary Wynne said in the statement.