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Air Force purchasing official is found dead

From Reuters

The U.S. Air Force’s No. 2 acquisition official, facing scrutiny for a temporary job arranged by the service while he awaited Senate confirmation, was found dead at his home. He apparently had committed suicide, according to an internal Air Force memo obtained by Reuters on Monday.

Charles D. Riechers, principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisition, was working on some of the Air Force’s highest priority weapons programs. They included a $40-billion aerial refueling tanker for which the contract is due to be awarded late this year or early next, and a $15-billion combat search-and-rescue helicopter.

“Mr. Riechers was found deceased in his home, cause of death appears to be suicide, time of death is unknown,” said the memo, issued late Sunday.

His death comes against a backdrop of heightened concerns about Air Force weapons programs, but the service said it was not expected to affect any contract awards.

“While Mr. Riechers was an integral part of these programs, the Air Force does not foresee any delays to these acquisition program schedules,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Bentley.

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She said the Air Force was deeply saddened by Riechers’ death, but gave no details.

The Washington Post reported on Oct. 1 that Riechers was hired for two months by defense contractor Commonwealth Research Institute at the request of the Air Force while he was out of work and awaiting Senate confirmation for his new position. The short-term job paid $13,400 a month.

Commonwealth has close ties to the Pentagon and has received hundreds of millions of dollars in military grants and contracts in recent years, according to the Post report.

“I really didn’t do anything for CRI,” Riechers told the newspaper. “I got a paycheck from them.”

At the time, the Air Force downplayed the report, saying the temporary job was a common arrangement to help the service under an existing contract. A spokeswoman also said Riechers had been quoted out of context.

But Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, criticized the deal and asked the Air Force to explain the arrangement.

New questions arose Friday about Commonwealth when Pemco Aviation Group amended its protest of a $1.2-billion contract to Boeing Co. for maintenance of the existing fleet of KC-135 refueling tankers.

Pemco raised questions about Riechers’ possible conflict of interest because of ties among Commonwealth, its parent Concurrent Technologies, and Boeing.

Riechers’ predecessor, Darleen Druyun, served nine months in prison in 2005. She was convicted of violating federal conflict-of-interest laws by taking a job with Boeing while still overseeing billions of dollars of its work for the Air Force.

Riechers’ body was discovered by a friend at his home in Loudoun County, Va., near Washington around 8 p.m. on Sunday, according to the local sheriff’s office.

The medical examiner in neighboring Fairfax County is to release results of an autopsy today.


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