A group of employees and managers at the Navy’s largest public shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia, wasted an estimated $21 million in public funds.The shipyard operation amounted to an unsanctioned off-the-books police force equipping it with illegally or improperly obtained weapons and vehicles. The findings were made by an internal command-directed investigation performed by the Naval Sea Systems Command’s inspector general. Investigators say that the activity began in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. The officials in charge of a group of unarmed security guards, whose job was supposed to be patrolling the shipyard’s internal work areas, began beefing up the workforce. They were outfitted with firearms, boats, law enforcement badges, vehicles, and an armored personnel carrier that they emblazoned with the word “police.”
These folks are not law enforcement, but they wanted to be, and all of their actions were done to become a law enforcement organization,” said Peter Lintner, the deputy director of investigations at NAVSEA.To let any other group of workers carry weapons and perform law enforcement functions takes special permission from the Chief of Naval Operations -- permission the security specialists neither requested nor received. [caption id="attachment_4119" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Aerial view of Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia[/caption]
They created their own on-base armory and stocked it with “illegally” purchased Berettas, thousands of rounds of ammunition, high-powered rifle scopes, night vision goggles, and ballistic vests and helmets.
The security specialists allegedly obtained at least 92 vehicles and other equipment worth more than $4 million without any valid mission requirement. To this day, all of that property is unaccounted for, according to the inspector general's office.
The stunning thing is that this happened over the course of seven commanding officers, and not a single one of them put a stop to it or really even had any visibility on it," Lintner stated. "Everybody just thought, ‘Well, they’re the good guys. They’re the security department. They’re not going to do anything wrong.’ In actuality, they were doing everything wrong, and they knew it.”The shipyard’s security workforce began to balloon, and its labor costs began to skyrocket. In 2009, its payroll cost the Navy $2.6 million. That figure grew to $4.7 million by 2014. A high-speed interdiction boat was later bought for $150,000 with a government purchase card, and the team paid at least $206,000 more to tie it up at a nearby private marina instead of at the shipyard itself. Overall, inspectors estimated the enterprise spent $10.6 million on labor that had nothing to do with the security office’s mission and another $10.4 million on unnecessary law enforcement equipment.