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Today's News

Janus Global Operations to provide range support services for the U.S. Air Force

Janus Global Operations, an international integrated stability operations company, has been tasked to provide a component of range support services for the U.S. Air Force.

Janus Global's project work will be under URS Federal Services, an AECOM company, which has been awarded a 16-year, $3.6 billion Air Force contract to provide range support services.

The overall project includes "mission and target management support for testing, tactics, development, advanced training, and Air Force and Joint urgent operational needs missions" at Air Force bases in Nevada and California, AECOM announced.

These sites include the Nevada Test and Training Range, Leach Lake Training Range, and Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases.

Janus Global Operations stability operations work is conducted by thousands of employees serving clients in North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Janus' services include munitions response; demining; intelligence support; logistics; life support; risk management; communications; and other services in some of the world's most challenging and hostile environments. The company's website is www.janusgo.com.

SAAB AND Raytheon Teaming for Soldier Weapons Development

Defence and security company Saab and Raytheon Company are teaming up to cooperate on the development of new weapons systems for infantry forces to meet near-term U.S. and international requirements. The companies will look into bringing new capabilities to Saab’s Carl-Gustaf reloadable and AT4 disposable and shoulder launched weapon systems.


The Carl-Gustaf weapons system, Program of Record in the US Army, is a world-leading weapon system within the support weapon category. It has been constantly modernized and enhanced to meet users’ changing needs. The latest version, the Carl-Gustaf M4/M3E1, reduces the weight from 10 kg/22 Ibs to less than 7 kg/15.5 Ibs. Carl-Gustaf is a battle-winning system for soldiers operating in demanding environments.


“Working with a global technology leader like Saab will expand both our global reach and the breadth of potential solutions for U.S. and coalition armies,” said Kim Ernzen, Raytheon Land Warfare Systems vice president. “Drawing from existing weapons, launchers, and sensors from the two companies’ land warfare portfolios will enable us to develop and offer advanced solutions on an accelerated timeline to meet emerging munitions needs”.


“Collaborating with Raytheon, utilizing their technical and product excellence, in combination with our technology will enhance the already world-leading Carl-Gustaf and AT4 weapon systems with additional capabilities that will even further increase the operational benefit for the end-user.” said Görgen Johansson, head of Saab business area Dynamics.

Coop Employs Cognito from Vectra to Protect its Retail Operations from Cyber attacks and Augment its Security Operations Team

Vectra®, the leader in automating the hunt for in-progress cyber attacks, today announced a multi-year agreement to provide its Cognito™ AI threat hunting platform to Coop Group, one of Switzerland's largest retail and wholesale companies. Coop selected the Cognito AI platform from Vectra as an innovative approach to increasing cybersecurity operational efficiency and efficacy.

With 2,476 sales outlets and over 85,000 employees, Coop is a large and highly distributed organisation. With the retail industry being a significant target for cybercriminals*, Coop decided that perimeter defences alone are insufficient to safeguard customer information, internal systems and point of sale systems. As a result, Coop set out to find technology that would enable them to detect and respond to cyber attacks in real time and prevent or significantly mitigate the impact of a data breach.

Coop identified significant economic and security gains resulting from the introduction of AI security automation. After evaluating multiple solutions, it turned to Vectra and its Cognito AI platform to help them detect cyber attacks in real time and speed response by augmenting their security operations team.

Cognito detects both known and unknown threats through the analysis of malicious attacker behaviours, rather than simple signature profiling of exiting threats. It will augment the Coop cybersecurity analysts by rapidly detecting, triaging and correlating threats to uncover in-progress cyber attacks before they become critical security incidents. Cognito detects threats created by malware, ransomware, advanced attackers abusing credentials and rogue insiders, regardless of the device or software used, and at a speed and scale humans alone cannot match.

"Enterprises like Coop are under immense pressure to reduce the time to detect and respond to attacks," said Gerard Bauer, vice president of EMEA at Vectra. "Security teams are overwhelmed with the manual task of triaging and correlating security events and struggle to fill open cybersecurity jobs. The Cognito AI platform automates threat hunting, triage and correlation for the Coop security team, and prioritises threats based on risk level so they can respond immediately. Cognito has reduced the security operations workload for enterprises by 168x**, shortening incident response from days to minutes."

To learn more about the Cognito platform, and how it combines machine learning and behavioural analytics to hunt ongoing threats, visit https://vectra.ai/cognito.

About Vectra
Vectra® is transforming cybersecurity with AI. Its Cognito platform automates cyber attack detection and response from data centre and cloud workloads to user and IoT devices. Cognito correlates threats, prioritises hosts based on risk and provides rich context to empower response with existing security systems, reducing security operations workload by 168x. Vectra was named "Most Innovative Emerging Company" in the Dark Reading Best of Black Hat Awards. InformationWeek also named Vectra one of the Top 125 companies to watch in 2016. Vectra has been issued 5 U.S. patents with 14 additional patents pending for cybersecurity applications of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Vectra investors include Khosla Ventures, Accel Partners, IA Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures and DAG Ventures. The company is headquartered in San Jose, Calif. and has European regional headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. For more information, visit https://vectra.ai.

Vectra, the Vectra Networks logo and 'Security that thinks' are registered trademarks, and Cognito, the Vectra Threat Labs and the Threat Certainty Index are trademarks of Vectra Networks. Other brand, product and service names are trademarks, registered trademarks or service marks of their respective holders.

DARPA Selects Northrop Grumman to Support Technical Innovations in Computer Processing Development

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) selected Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) to collaborate on the development of a graph processor chip that aims to vastly enhance efficiencies and capabilities of today’s top processors.

As a part of DARPA’s newly instated Hierarchical Identify Verify Exploit (HIVE) program, Northrop Grumman will work with five other entities to implement and evaluate real-time performance of various graph algorithms in a newly developed HIVE chip. HIVE seeks to create and integrate technologies that will potentially lead to the development of a generic graph processor, responsible for quickly analyzing large data sets to determine correlations and dependencies that were not able to be discovered before.

This type of development could be critical in cybersecurity, intelligence integration and network analysis, especially as it relates to the Department of Defense (DoD). Northrop Grumman contributions to HIVE will assess the potential for graph analytics to resolve DoD processing challenges while also gaining a better understanding into how the analytics are currently used in DoD systems.

“The goal of the HIVE program is to enable our customers to make better decisions with the copious amounts of data generated every day. This program endeavors to produce technology breakthroughs that will transform cognitive systems and advance analytics for many years,” said Vern Boyle, vice president, cyber and advanced processing, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems.

Northrop Grumman will work to solve the problem facing today’s top processors. Currently, there are few programming models and generalized processor architectures that can effectively support the irregular memory accesses and fine grained concurrency requirements of static and dynamic/streaming graph analytics, while also providing accelerated run-time support. The ability to quickly identify commonalities, patterns and dependencies in order to predict outcomes is vital due to the high volume and variety of data being generated every day.

The HIVE program will address three key technical areas including: graph analytic processors, graph analytics toolkits and system evaluation. As the single performer selected for system evaluation, Northrop Grumman will identify and develop static and streaming graph analytics to solve five types of problem areas including: anomaly detection, domain specific search, dependency mapping, N-x contingency analysis and causal modeling of events. This project will focus on identifying new uses for graph analytics that have not been included in previous research due to processing, power or size constraints.

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide. Please visit news.northropgrumman.com and follow us on Twitter, @NGCNews, for more information.

New Cybersecurity Framework “Profile” to Help Ensure Safe Transfer of Hazardous Liquids at Ports

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) oversees approximately 800 waterfront facilities that, among other activities, transfer hazardous liquids between marine vessels and land-based pipelines, tanks or vehicles. These “maritime bulk liquid transfers” increasingly rely on computers to operate valves and pumps, monitor sensors and perform many other vital safety and security functions. This makes the whole system more vulnerable to cybersecurity issues ranging from malware to human error, and is the reason behind a new voluntary cybersecurity guide for the industry.

Maritime bulk liquid transfer processes are part of a complex and sophisticated supply chain of the oil and natural gas industry that brings together various types of organizations and systems. The USCG and industry representatives joined with the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE), part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to develop a profile to help those organizations assess their cybersecurity risk (link is external).

The document is the first in a series of planned profiles that will help maritime industry organizations make the most of the voluntary Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, published by NIST in February 2014. The profile pulls into one document recommended cybersecurity safeguards to provide a starting point for organizations to review and adapt their risk management processes, and it describes a desired minimum state of cybersecurity.

“Working with the U.S. Coast Guard to engage the oil and natural gas industry in creating this profile is a prime example of the collaboration that takes place at the NCCoE,” said Don Tobin, NIST senior security engineer. “Organizations working in this critical mission area can leverage the profile to develop a plan to reach their desired state of cybersecurity.”

The profile is aimed at those involved in overseeing, developing, implementing and managing the cybersecurity components of maritime bulk liquid transfer. This includes operations executives, risk managers, cybersecurity professionals and vessel operators. It recognizes a need for security controls on operational technologies such as storage, transfer, pressure and vapor monitoring, emergency response and spill mitigation systems. The profile provides guidance on appropriate security controls for information technology to reliably support these increasingly connected processes, as well as traditional ones such as human resources, training and business communication.

“These facilities face inherent cybersecurity vulnerabilities and the U.S. Coast Guard hopes this profile will assist organizations with mitigating them, and provide a long-term process for developing an internal cyber risk management program,” said Lt. Josephine Long, a marine safety expert in the Critical Infrastructure Branch within the USCG’s Office of Port & Facility Compliance.
 
The profile can help individual companies clarify how cybersecurity fits into their mission priorities and how best to allocate resources to secure their information and operational systems. Benefits also include improved understanding of the environment to foster consistent analysis of cybersecurity risks, and alignment of industry and USCG cybersecurity priorities.

According to Long, the USCG plans to work with the NCCoE to build additional profiles that will cover mobile offshore drilling operations, passenger vessel and terminal operations.
The NCCoE works with industry, academia and other government agencies to address real-world cybersecurity problems with existing technology.

The Maritime Bulk Liquid Transfer Cybersecurity Framework Profile (link is external) is available on the USCG website, and more information is available in a blog post (link is external) on Maritime Commons (link is external).

Cybercrime victims in western Michigan will soon have one number to call for help thanks to the Cybercrime Support Network and AT&T

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- Cybercrime affects millions of Americans each year. The Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has identified 38 cybercrime categories, and complaints to IC3 in 2016 totaled $1.33 Billion in losses by almost 300k complaints1. This represents only an estimated 15% of the total number of cybercrime victims each year. Without a central reporting number, victims waste time searching for the resources and support they need.

This fast-growing crime preys on children and adults, small and large business, public and private sector, seniors and singles and leaves behind emotionally and financially exhausted victims with little understanding of who or where to turn. It is a stealth crime and victims often fail to realize its impact until the perpetrator is long gone. Even the first step in recovery—reporting the crime at the state or local level—can be confounding.

The Cybercrime Support Network (CSN), a nonprofit corporation, is working with federal, state and local law enforcement and the United Way Worldwide National 211 system to add services to the already established 211 infrastructures to serve the growing number of cybercrime victims. AT&T is the first private-sector sponsor of the project.

"We are thankful for the support of AT&T on this project, we share a strong commitment to combat cyber threats and to the state of Michigan where we are launching our first pilot," says Kristin Judge, chief executive officer, Cybercrime Support Network.  CSN is launching a pilot in western Michigan this fall to train 911 and 211 front line specialists to triage cybercrime calls. After the internal training is complete, the community will be trained to call 211 for help.

"AT&T has invested in our Michigan communications networks, our people and local communities for 138 years.  Working side-by-side with CSN, state government, and local agencies to further cyber response and support is integral to our mission," says Roger Blake regional vice president, AT&T Public Sector.

The goals of the program in West Michigan include: (i) building awareness, giving voice and serving victims of cybercrime, (ii) connecting victims to local, state and federal law enforcement, when required, (iii) identifying community resources for recovery and crime victim compensation, and (iv) improving education and restitution options for victims.

In addition to AT&T, this program is a collaborative engagement between CSN, Michigan 211, and Heart of West Michigan Regional 211 and is the first and only nonprofit, public-private partnership to meet the unsupported needs of cybercrime victims.  "Our collective vision to foster collaboration, provide training and create resources for the community is shared by each of these organizations," says Tom Page, Director, MI 211.

The goal by 2021 is that citizens calling 211 for cybercrime assistance will be as commonplace as calling 911 in an emergency.  When cybercrime victims reach out for help they will receive informed, compassionate and expert support in seeking recovery. To stay connected with this critical program and to sponsor, please visit www.Cybercrimesupport.org.

1Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2016 Internet Crime Report, https://pdf.ic3.gov/2016_IC3Report.pdf

About Cybercrime Support Network
The Cybercrime Support Network (CSN) is a public-private, nonprofit collaboration created to meet challenges facing millions of people and businesses affected each and every day by cybercrime. Currently, victims struggle to find the right help, and responses from law enforcement vary by jurisdiction.

CSN is bringing together partners around the country to create a coordinated system to support cybercrime victims. Soon, the victims will have one number to call and reach a referral specialist who can navigate them through the process of response and recovery. Stay connected with CSN on Twitter @cybersupportnet.

About AT&T
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) helps millions around the globe connect with leading entertainment, business, mobile and high speed internet services. We offer the nation's best data network** and the best global coverage of any U.S. wireless provider. We're one of the world's largest providers of pay TV. We have TV customers in the U.S. and 11 Latin American countries. Nearly 3.5 million companies, from small to large businesses around the globe, turn to AT&T for our highly secure smart solutions.

AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc. Additional information about AT&T products and services is available at about.att.com. Follow our news on Twitter at @ATT, on Facebook at facebook.com/att and on YouTube at youtube.com/att.

© 2017 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. AT&T, the Globe logo and other marks are trademarks and service marks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies. All other marks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

**Claim based on the Nielsen Certified Data Network Score. Score includes data reported by wireless consumers in the Nielsen Mobile Insights survey, network measurements from Nielsen Mobile Performance and Nielsen Drive Test Benchmarks for Q1 + Q2 2017 across 121 markets.

Can airlines and airports use 'smart contracts' for shared control of data?

SITA Lab, the research team of the air transport industry’s IT provider SITA, today revealed the learnings from research it carried out with British Airways, Heathrow, Geneva Airport and Miami International Airport into ‘smart contracts’ residing on a blockchain.

Blockchain has been heralded as a transformational technology for many industries. While several use cases have been identified for the air transport industry, the opportunity of using ‘smart contracts’ for shared control of data by airlines and airports is one which promises real benefits. SITA Lab today issued FlightChain, a paper outlining the findings of its research conducted with its airline and airport partners.

The air transport industry is highly-connected and there is a need for ‘single source of truth’ for various data used by different stakeholders. Control of shared data is a key concern for all. Blockchain offers potential to share data in a controlled way. SITA recognizes, however, that there is a need for research so the industry can take the right approach, to ensure governance, standards, compliance, security and more.

This research project was initially established by SITA Lab with Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited (HAL) and International Airlines Group (IAG) with Geneva Airport and Miami International Airport participating. Called FlightChain, it was devised to investigate a single source of truth for flight data.  The “flight data problem” is a well-known issue in the industry - namely, there is no single source of the truth and the data that does exist, is not easily accessed by all parties.

While there are many cases of airlines and airports collaborating to share flight data, this data still resides in separate silos. When there are flight delays, this results in differences between passenger apps, airport FIDS and airline agents. FlightChain ensures all stakeholders have the same information.

Jim Peters, CTO, SITA, said: “Our FlightChain project has demonstrated that blockchain is a viable technology to provide a single source of truth for data for airlines and airports, specifically for real-time flight information. While there are other technologies available for sharing data, the use of blockchain, and smart contracts in particular, provides ‘shared control’ and improves the trustworthiness of the data. This research with our partners shows the potential of blockchain for sharing data across the air transport industry.”

FlightChain was established as a private permissioned blockchain (implemented on both Ethereum and Hyperledger-Fabric) that stores flight information on the blockchain, using a smart contract to arbitrate potentially conflicting data. British Airways, Geneva Airport, Heathrow and Miami International Airport provide flight data that is merged and stored on the blockchain. During this project more than two million flight changes were processed by the smart contract and stored on FlightChain.

Stuart Harwood, Heathrow Automation and Innovation, HAL, said: “Heathrow’s participation in FlightChain with SITA Lab has been very valuable. We are still early in the blockchain technology cycle and more research is required but FlightChain has shown the opportunities for shared control of data with our industry partners.”

Peters, added: “In a real-world network, it will be important to manage the changes to the smart contract as it affects all participants. Industry bodies such as ACI and IATA, working with SITA as the neutral IT provider to the air transport community, could be involved in the establishment of the contract. In fact, we can imagine a future where industry standards are written directly as smart contracts instead of published as PDF documents.”

Glenn Morgan, Head of Digital Business Transformation at International Airlines Group (IAG), said: “Now we’ve proven the technology, we are really excited by the opportunities that blockchain can create in the industry. We will work with IATA and ACI to ensure the best practices are in place.”

The research paper published today details key lessons learned regarding governance, smart contracts, system security and system performance, scalability and reliability. Along with a view on the use of public versus private blockchain networks for the air transport industry.

Coop Employs Cognito from Vectra to Protect its Retail Operations from Cyber attacks and Augment its Security Operations Team

 Vectra®, the leader in automating the hunt for in-progress cyber attacks, today announced a multi-year agreement to provide its Cognito™ AI threat hunting platform to Coop Group, one of Switzerland's largest retail and wholesale companies. Coop selected the Cognito AI platform from Vectra as an innovative approach to increasing cybersecurity operational efficiency and efficacy.

With 2,476 sales outlets and over 85,000 employees, Coop is a large and highly distributed organisation. With the retail industry being a significant target for cybercriminals*, Coop decided that perimeter defences alone are insufficient to safeguard customer information, internal systems and point of sale systems. As a result, Coop set out to find technology that would enable them to detect and respond to cyber attacks in real time and prevent or significantly mitigate the impact of a data breach.

Coop identified significant economic and security gains resulting from the introduction of AI security automation. After evaluating multiple solutions, it turned to Vectra and its Cognito AI platform to help them detect cyber attacks in real time and speed response by augmenting their security operations team.

Cognito detects both known and unknown threats through the analysis of malicious attacker behaviours, rather than simple signature profiling of exiting threats. It will augment the Coop cybersecurity analysts by rapidly detecting, triaging and correlating threats to uncover in-progress cyber attacks before they become critical security incidents. Cognito detects threats created by malware, ransomware, advanced attackers abusing credentials and rogue insiders, regardless of the device or software used, and at a speed and scale humans alone cannot match.

"Enterprises like Coop are under immense pressure to reduce the time to detect and respond to attacks," said Gerard Bauer, vice president of EMEA at Vectra. "Security teams are overwhelmed with the manual task of triaging and correlating security events and struggle to fill open cybersecurity jobs. The Cognito AI platform automates threat hunting, triage and correlation for the Coop security team, and prioritises threats based on risk level so they can respond immediately. Cognito has reduced the security operations workload for enterprises by 168x**, shortening incident response from days to minutes."

To learn more about the Cognito platform, and how it combines machine learning and behavioural analytics to hunt ongoing threats, visit https://vectra.ai/cognito.

About Vectra
Vectra® is transforming cybersecurity with AI. Its Cognito platform automates cyber attack detection and response from data centre and cloud workloads to user and IoT devices. Cognito correlates threats, prioritises hosts based on risk and provides rich context to empower response with existing security systems, reducing security operations workload by 168x. Vectra was named "Most Innovative Emerging Company" in the Dark Reading Best of Black Hat Awards. InformationWeek also named Vectra one of the Top 125 companies to watch in 2016. Vectra has been issued 5 U.S. patents with 14 additional patents pending for cybersecurity applications of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Vectra investors include Khosla Ventures, Accel Partners, IA Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures and DAG Ventures. The company is headquartered in San Jose, Calif. and has European regional headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. For more information, visit https://vectra.ai.

Vectra, the Vectra Networks logo and 'Security that thinks' are registered trademarks, and Cognito, the Vectra Threat Labs and the Threat Certainty Index are trademarks of Vectra Networks. Other brand, product and service names are trademarks, registered trademarks or service marks of their respective holders.

US Air Force accepts Raytheon's GPS OCX launch and checkout system

AURORA, Colo.-- The U.S. Air Force has officially accepted Raytheon's (NYSE: RTN) GPS Operational Control System launch and checkout system, also referred to as Block 0, signifying the company met all contractual requirements when it delivered the LCS to the service on Sept. 29.

LCS is a fully modernized cyber-secure ground system complete with the computing hardware, operations center workstations, and mission application software necessary to launch the first GPS III satellite into orbit and perform initial on-orbit testing.

"This is a major milestone for the program, and it keeps the U.S. Air Force on track to launch the first modernized GPS satellite into space next year," said Dave Wajsgras, president of Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services. "We have strong forward momentum on the program, and we will deliver the full capability in 2021."

LCS forms the basis for the full system delivery, referred to as Block 1, which will provide higher accuracy and globally deployed modernized receivers, to ensure anti-jam capability for military users. It will also provide control of both legacy and modernized satellites and signals, including the new international L1C and modernized Military Code.

Lawmakers, Procurement Experts Call Puerto Rico Power Contract a 'Travesty'

 

The Trump administration is distancing itself from a controversial contract aimed at rebuilding the power grid in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, which procurement experts and lawmakers say has dubious origins and contains highly unusual provisions.

The contract in question was valued at $300 million and awarded to a small Montana firm, Whitefish Energy, by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. The unusually high labor costs and language that prohibits government agencies from auditing certain aspects of the deal, as revealed in the leaked contract, sparked concern from members of Congress and government watchdogs. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the contract “raises every red flag in the book.”

Both the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Administration have distanced themselves from the contract.

“Based on initial review and information from PREPA, FEMA has significant concerns with how PREPA procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable,” FEMA said in a statement on Friday. “FEMA is presently engaged with PREPA and its legal counsel to obtain information about the contract and contracting process, including how the contract was procured and how PREPA determined the contract prices were reasonable.”

One provision of the document stated “FEMA has reviewed and approved of this contract” and is “an acceptable form to qualify for funding from FEMA and other U.S. governmental agencies,” but FEMA said that characterization is “inaccurate.”

Another section of the contract states “the federal government is not a party to this contract and is not subject to any obligations or liabilities to PREPA” or anyone else party to the document. FEMA said it has yet to provide any reimbursement to Whitefish, adding any applicant for its public assistance grants must abide by federal requirements or “risk not being reimbursed.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said at a briefing on Friday the contract was “not something the federal government played a role in” and declined to comment on its propriety until a proper audit is conducted.

Both the process for obtaining the contract and the subject of it are problematic, said Steven Schooner, a professor of government procurement law at The George Washington University and a former associate administrator for procurement law and legislation at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the Office of Management and Budget. Whitefish did not go through a competitive, open bidding process before receiving the contract. The attempt to limit transparency through restricting audits “jumps off the page” and is “highly irregular,” Schooner said.

The contract states that, “In no event shall PREPA, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the FEMA administrator, the comptroller general of the United States, or any of their authorized representatives have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements of the labor rates specified herein."

Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, said an audit clause used to be standard practice until sometime during the Clinton administration. He added that many contracts today still go out the door without requiring firms to “provide adequate support for costs or prices.” Amey found problematic another clause in the contract, in which PREPA waived “any claims against” Whitefish for any delays in completing work.

The waiver “raises concerns about whether Whitefish or its subcontractor workforce is prolonging the work to reach, and possibly extend, the contract’s $300 million ceiling,” Amey said.

Amey echoed Schooner in noting the contract highlighted the difficulties in negotiating relief contracts after a disaster strikes. Many observers faulted Puerto Rico for reaching an agreement with Whitefish rather than relying on a previously established mutual-aid network of public utilities that typically handle power restoration.

Several aspects of the billing have also raised concerns. A journeyman lineman on the contract, Schooner noted, would make about $228 per hour. Subcontracted journeyman linemen, who will provide the vast majority of the work for the contract, will earn $319 per hour. That provides a significant take off the top for Whitefish, Schooner said, in which “you’d have to be an idiot” to send your own employees to do the work rather than hiring subcontractors. Those employees will also earn a $400 per diem, according to the contract, meaning a subcontractor lineman working eight hours would bill at nearly $3,000 per day.

“That’s a jaw-dropping rate,” Schooner said. “How could somebody have agreed to these kinds of rates?”

Whitefish is also billing the government at an hourly rate for equipment, which Schooner called “unthinkable.”

“It’s so unbelievably nonsensical I don’t even know where to begin,” he said.

The contract initially came under scrutiny after reports surfaced that Whitefish is headquartered in the small town where Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke lives, and that Zinke’s son interned at the company. Interior has denied Zinke had any involvement with the contract, something Sanders said Zinke reiterated to Trump at a previously scheduled White House meeting on Friday.

"Any attempts by the dishonest media or political operatives to tie me to awarding or influencing any contract involving Whitefish are completely baseless," Zinke said in a statement Friday. "I welcome any and all investigations into these allegations, and encourage the Interior Department's inspector general to investigate this matter fully." 

Two House committees, Energy and Commerce and well as Natural Resources, have launched probes into the contract. The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general is also investigating the contract. McCaskill and the chairman of her committee, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., wrote a letter to the IG requesting he determine whether the contract is eligible for reimbursement under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. Their committee is holding a hearing on the federal government’s recent hurricane response efforts, and McCaskill said Trump administration officials “better be ready to answer tough questions on exactly what is happening with this contract.”

The no-audit clause in Whitefish’s contract, Amey noted, did not apply to the DHS IG or congressional committees.

Schooner praised the reviews underway, calling the contract a “travesty” and suggesting some major changes happen quickly.

“It would be an abomination if it isn’t very quickly terminated, modified or replaced,” he said.

 

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