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Navy wasting almost $5M on phone upgrade in Hawaii, whistleblower says

The USNS Sioux tows the Royal Canadian Navy ship HMCS Protecteur to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on March 6, 2014. Protecteur experienced an engine fire en route to Canada and returned to Pearl Harbor with help from U.S. Navy ships.

An individual identifying himself as a Navy Region Hawaii federal employee sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono and media outlets Friday in which he said almost $5 million in taxpayer money is being wasted converting the Hickam Air Force Base phone system to AT&T.

"In 2010, Hickam Air Force Base was merged into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Navy led. An advertised goal of joint basing was to save resources by finding best practices between the services. Unfortunately we are not doing that here," said the letter writer, who identified himself as David Anderson.

Anderson said he is with the Navy's information technology service management office and has lived and worked in Hawaii for 23 years.

"I am writing to you for help to stop wasteful spending of our tax dollars," Anderson said in his letter to Hirono, dated Friday. "Specifically Navy Region Hawaii is moving forward with a telephone system standardization project at a cost of $4.9 million."

Anderson could not be reached at his office Friday afternoon.

Anderson said AT&T is the service provider for the Army, Navy and Marine Corps on Oahu through multimillion-dollar contracts known as the Hawaii Information Transfer System and Joint Hawaii Information Transfer System.

AT&T has been providing the service since the early 1990s for the three services, but the Air Force elected to pursue an alternate mode of telephone service delivery utilizing a Private Branch Exchange system, he said.

AT&T provided the Navy a proposal to transfer more than 6,200 former Hickam Air Force Base telephone customers to AT&T at a cost of more than $13 million, Anderson said.

The Navy subsequently entered into a $4.9 million deal in September, he said.

Anderson said he was told the deal was made "to bring the Air Force part of the base into ‘uniform compliance' capability for future requirements."

He said he did some research and discovered the Navy could upgrade the Private Branch Exchange system for about $680,000.

"This blew my mind," he said in the letter. "I could meet requirements and position ourselves for the future under $700,000 versus spending $5 million."

The military is pursuing Voice Over Internet Protocol, and the Navy has already added more than $800,000 to the initial $4.9 million, bringing the new total to $5.7 million, Anderson said.

Navy Region Hawaii was provided a copy of the letter and confirmed it has a David Anderson who works in the Managed IT Services Division.

"We continually review our procurement procedures to ensure we make the most effective use of taxpayers' dollars," Navy Region Hawaii said in an email. "We take into consideration both the short-term and long-term advantages for every project. Sometimes the short-term may seem to be the most expensive route initially, but we gain savings and efficiencies in the long run."

"I have tried communicating with my supervisor, the local Inspector General office, and the (Defense Department) Inspector General office only to be turned away," Anderson said in the letter. "I am told we are moving forward because somewhere in the future it will be better to be on one delivery model. I understand uniformity but at what cost?"

Hirono's Washington office received Anderson's letter via email Friday, a staffer said.

"We take allegations of taxpayer abuse extremely seriously and will review Mr. Anderson's claims and do our due diligence," Hirono's office said.

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