WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The senior U.S. Air Force official found dead at his home this month left a suicide note in which he expressed remorse about having triggered a new acquisition scandal for the Air Force, a source familiar with internal Air Force discussions said on Monday.
The Air Force’s No. 2 acquisition official, Charles Riechers, 47, was found dead at his Virginia home in an apparent suicide, according to an Air Force memorandum.
The medical examiner’s office is still waiting for results from an autopsy to confirm the cause of his death, a spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said.
Riechers had been facing scrutiny after The Washington Post reported the Air Force arranged to have him paid about $13,400 a month by a contractor, Commonwealth Research Institute, for two months while he awaited final clearance as the principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisition.
Riechers’ ties to Commonwealth Research, registered as a nonprofit group in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, also sparked questions about a disputed $1.2 billion contract awarded to Boeing Co for depot maintenance of KC-135 refueling tankers.
Just days before Riechers’ death, Pemco Aviation Group amended its protest to the Government Accountability Office over the contract, which fell under Riechers’ purview.
It raised questions about a possible conflict of interest because of purported ties among Commonwealth, its corporate parent, Concurrent Technologies Corp, and Boeing.
LETTER EXPRESSES REMORSE
The source told Reuters that Riechers left behind two suicide notes, one for his wife, and another for his boss, Air Force acquisition chief Sue Payton.
In the letter to Payton, he “expressed remorse at having created a new acquisition scandal for the Air Force reminiscent of the earlier one involving Darleen Druyun,” according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Air Force declined comment on the content of the notes, but said they were in the possession of investigators.
Riechers was the first to fill the No. 2 acquisition job since the departure of Druyun, who served nine months in a federal prison in 2005. She was convicted of violating federal conflict-of-interest laws by negotiating a job with Boeing while still overseeing its business with the Air Force.
The Druyun scandal led to the ouster of two Boeing CEOs, the conviction of the company’s former chief financial officer, and prompted Congress to kill a $23.5 billion Air Force deal to lease and buy 100 Boeing tankers.
The source said Air Force officials believed Riechers’ actions were linked in some manner to the initial Washington Post report and the subsequent amendment of Pemco’s protest. But military officials downplayed the importance of the two issues, saying they did not see a broader problem with Riechers, the source said.
In his letter to Payton, Riechers also said he was worried he could lose his security clearances, and consequently his ability to provide for his family, the source said.
The Air Force is cooperating with the GAO in its review of the Boeing contract award and asked the Pentagon’s Inspector General, an internal watchdog, two months ago to “look into the (Boeing KC-135) contract as a whole,” said spokeswoman Lt. Col. Jennifer Cassidy. She gave no further details.
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