Stefan Halper, the professor who became an FBI informant to spy on the Trump campaign, failed to document the research he did as a contractor on four Pentagon studies worth $1 million, an investigation found.
The Department of Defense inspector general’s report exposes loose contracting practices at the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA) — the same kinds of problems reported by analyst Adam S. Lovinger. ONA later accused him of mishandling sensitive data, and he has been suspended without pay.
“The results of this audit only begin to scratch the surface of Mr. Lovinger’s whistleblower complaints about ONA contracting practices,” said his attorney, Sean Bigley. “DoD destroyed Mr. Lovinger because he had the audacity to point out the obvious.”
The inspector general’s report focused on four Halper studies. Mr. Halper presented his proposals, called “statements of work,” to ONA. The proposals included the prominent people he would interview and the countries and institutions he would visit. ONA told the inspector general that Mr. Halper’s work was “high quality.”
Based on his promised research, ONA, through the Pentagon’s Washington Headquarters Services, awarded him contracts from 2012 to 2016 to write four studies encompassing relations among the U.S., Russia, China and India.
For a 2016 Russia-China study, Mr. Halper promised access to some of the brightest minds on foreign policy. He is a Washington analyst and a former professor at Cambridge University in England, where he ran an intelligence consultancy.
But the inspector general stated: “ONA personnel could not provide us any evidence that Professor Halper visited any of these locations, established an advisory group, or met with any of the specific people listed in the statement of work.”
The inspector general’s July 2 report said Mr. Halper also failed to document ONA work while traveling around the world at taxpayer expense.
For his study on China in year 2030, the inspector general said: “According to the statement of work, Professor Halper proposed travel to London, England and Tokyo, Japan. The contract was fixed price based on the acceptance of the deliverables and did not require Professor Halper to submit travel receipts. ONA personnel could not provide documentation that Professor Halper traveled for this contract.”
The inspector general launched the Halper investigation based on a request in January from Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican. He, in turn, was acting on allegations of sweetheart contacts at the Office of Net Assessment, a secretive Pentagon think tank whose mission is to find and expose future global threats.
A chief critic came from the inside. Mr. Lovinger complained in emails to Director James H. Baker that the office had become a lure for high-priced academic-style papers instead of classified “net assessments.”
Interview transcripts show that ONA officials have acknowledged under questioning that the office has not produced a net assessment, its core mission, for 12 years.
“On the issue of quality, more than once I have heard our contractor studies labeled ‘derivative,’ ‘college-level,’ and based heavily on secondary sources,” Mr. Lovinger wrote in a September 2016 email. “One of our contractor studies was literally cut and pasted from a World Bank report.”
The Washington Times last year examined Mr. Halper’s $244,000 Russia-China report, which focused on suspected collaboration between the two U.S. adversaries.
On Page 7, Mr. Halper states: “Consultants and Advisors. The following consultants and advisors contributed to the analysis within this study.”
On two pages is a list of 43 such contributors, in some cases a who’s who of Washington’s national security brainpower. The Times checked with 15 of the 43.
“No memory of project or person. Quick search of calendar and email shows nothing,” Michael V. Hayden, retired Air Force general and former CIA director, told The Times.
Jonathan Haslam, a Princeton professor and noted scholar on Soviet history, said: “I was never asked to participate in this study and I would not have agreed to do so anyway. I find it troubling that I am listed in a study that I never participated in.”
On this particular report, the inspector general said, Mr. Halper promised to visit the National War College, the British Ministry of Defense, Harvard University and other august settings. He also would meet with “strategic analysts, economists and experts” and develop an advisory group.
The inspector general concluded: “None of the 851 footnotes in the deliverables attributed source material to an interview conducted by Professor Halper. ONA personnel could not provide us any evidence that Professor Halper visited any of these locations, established an advisory group, or met with any of the specific people listed in the statement of work.”
The inspector general’s finding was similar on Mr. Halper’s China-India report.
He submitted invoices to ONA for travel to India, London, Cambridge and Japan. Part of the Japan visit was financed by an unidentified third party.
“ONA personnel could not provide documentation that this travel related to [the] contract or the name of the third party who paid part of Professor Halper’s travel expenses,” the inspector general said.
As he did with the 2016 Russia paper, Mr. Halper listed a number of high-ranking officials and scholars he planned to consult and interview.
After examining the paper, the inspector general concluded: “None of the 348 footnotes in the deliverables attributed source material to an interview conducted by Professor Halper. ONA personnel could not provide us with evidence to show that any of these high-ranking officials contributed to Professor Halper’s India-China study.”
The inspector general’s report focuses only on the four Halper studies, not other ONA contractors.
ONA officials told investigators that they do not require any contractor to show they actually interviewed the people they said they would. ONA also does not require a contractor to show proof of study work while on taxpayer-funded travel.
The Pentagon inspector general does not address whether other contractors listed proposed interviews, as Mr. Halper did, but never footnoted them.
‘Significant flaws’ in management
Mr. Halper has not been seen in public since news reports outed him as an FBI informant working out of Cambridge University. He sought interaction with at least two Donald Trump campaign advisers, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page. He worked with a female informant who posed as his assistant.
The inspector general’s report criticized ONA for not following the Federal Acquisition Regulation in handling Mr. Halper’s contracts.
The report listed a number of violations. For one, ONA failed to file away nomination letters on two contracts. In three contracts, ONA didn’t document communications its staff conducted with Mr. Halper. ONA also failed to comply with the regulation by ensuring his travel and interviews matched his statement of work.
Last month, Mr. Grassley wrote a letter to then-acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
“The DoD IG’s audit revealed significant flaws in ONA’s contract management and oversight process that clearly indicate ONA’s internal controls over taxpayer-funded work are weak or non-existent,” the senator said.
ONA submitted to the inspector general’s office a three-page plan to correct its loose contracting procedures.
It plans to create an official standard operating procedure by October, it said.
On the inspector general’s recommendation that it verify that a finished study matched the “statement of work” proposal, ONA said yes, but with a caveat.
“ONA does not agree that every contract requires exhaustive or significant verification of the methods used to derive analytic content,” the office said. “ONA quality control measures will be dictated by ONA requirements and the statement of work. Deliverables are reviewed and accepted based on the quality of the work and in accordance with the terms of the contract. Consistent with this practice, deliverables were reviewed and assessed for the four contracts audited by the DoD OIG. The Government received deliverables that were high quality and conformed to the requirements set forth in the contract. The Government determined that the contractor performed satisfactorily.”
ONA also said it will require all contractors to produce travel receipts for reimbursement.
As for Mr. Lovinger, the ONA analyst who complained about Mr. Halper’s contracts and others, his career encountered a train wreck.
With the election of Mr. Trump, he sought an assignment at the White House. After just a few months, the analyst was quickly pulled back to the Pentagon after Mr. Baker started an investigation. It found that Mr. Lovinger had violated security procedures on handling sensitive information. He also was accused of leaking ONA insider stories to news media.
Mr. Lovinger denied all charges. He saw the punishment as whistleblower reprisal. He appealed, but after a trial in December, an administrative judge sided with ONA. The judge, however, did not substantiate the leak charge.
Mr. Bigley made what he considered a stunning find. A Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch unearthed some Pentagon emails in which officials briefly mentioned the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Mr. Bigley filed an open records request for any data on his client. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service turned over a counterintelligence report that exonerated Mr. Lovinger.
A copy of the report obtained by The Washington Times said there was no evidence that Mr. Lovinger leaked to the media or that his government-provided computer contained classified or sensitive material.
Mr. Bigley said the government failed to turn over the Naval Criminal Investigative Service documents for the December trial. He filed a complaint with the Defense Department inspector general, who is hearing Mr. Lovinger’s whistleblower reprisal case.
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at email@example.com.
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