NACs

This is an odd story that I find interesting because it lays right on the intersection of politics and science, and because I have a very tangential connection to it.

Ed Morrissey at The Captain’s Quarters posts:

The Department of Homeland Security now admits it made a mistake in assigning a no-bid federal contract to Chenega Technologies for radiation-detection equipment at security checkpoints on the basis of disadvantaged ownership for Alaskan tribes, an effort pioneered by Hall of Fame porker Senator Ted Stevens. However, Stevens hardly is the only member of Congress benefiting from Chenega’s sweetheart deals.

Except for the name of Sen. Ted Stevens (R. Alaska), this would be a minor story. Stevens, however, is the former chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and famous for his “Bridge to Nowhere”. He has earned himself a reputation for being a master at adding “pork” to legislation that directs surprising amounts of money to his state (and then, to his campaign).

Chenega is a special kind of entity, known as a Native Alaskan Corporation. The most interesting attribute of NACs is that they have, under federal law, a special status when it comes to federal contracts. From the Middle Earth Journal

Alaska Native corporations have favored status under federal laws that encourage American Indian participation in federal contracting. Such legislation has been introduced most prominently by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. But the measures have drawn significant scrutiny and questions about whom they benefit.

It’s not the status of Alaskan Native Corporations (or even their right to exist) that’s in question here, but it’s their connection to other companies that I wonder about. From the same link:

So it turns out that the Alaskan “native” firm was flushing a lot of money from the contract into two of the usual suspects, General Dynamics and L-3 Communications, but certainly not all of it. And now the DHS is looking to shovel over a billion into purchasing more of this equipment. However, there are “questions” about the equipment which are delaying the purchase, primarily in terms of its reliability and performance.

In otherwords, the claim is the GD and L-3 were using Chenega as a kind of beard, to get access to contracts under a favored NAC auspices. [added later: The equipment may be sub-standard. That’s under investigation. It’s the “flushing a lot of money” phrase that caught my eye.]

Chenega is not the only NAC within range of Washington DC. I was briefly considered for a job at another NAC, which has ties to other non-Alaskan corporations, who are major government aerospace contractors.

Are any of their relationships kosher? – or are they all as tainted as Stevens himself appears to be?

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