WASHINGTON — Two Pentagon officials today described how pressure from their superiors led to a $135-million Navy pontoon bridge contract being given to the now-scandal-plagued Wedtech Corp., and said shoddy workmanship and late deliveries were the result.
"Never during my tour of duty was a single (pontoon bridge) delivered on time and in accordance with the contract schedule," said Col. Don Hein, former commander of the Defense Contract Administration in New York. "Quality control and workmanship were very poor. . . . This was not new technology, but World War II 1940s technology."
Capt. David de Vicq, a former Navy acquisitions manager, said that he and other Navy officials had favored putting the pontoon bridge contract out for bids in 1984 but that they were overruled by their superiors and by officials of the Small Business Administration.
Hein and De Vicq testified before the Senate subcommittee on oversight of government management.
De Vicq said Wedtech had been strongly supported by Everett Pyatt, an undersecretary of the Navy, and by James Sanders, former chief of the SBA.
Hein said Wedtech executives had acted as though they did not have to follow his agency's directions or requests.
Wedtech hired former White House political director Lyn A. Nofziger and E. Robert Wallach, a longtime friend of Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III, to help it win no-bid federal contracts under an SBA program for minority contractors.
The subcommittee disclosed today that Wallach had given Meese a progress report on millions of dollars in government contracts to Wedtech seven months before the attorney general invested $55,000 with a Wedtech consultant who later became a company director.
A memo released by the subcommittee is the first indication that Meese, who has consistently tried to minimize his involvement with Wedtech, was involved in any way in the pontoon bridge contract.
In the memo, dated Oct. 10, 1984, Meese, then White House counselor, was urged by Wallach to attend a politically well-timed "christening" for Wedtech "four or five days before Election Day." Meese did not attend.
Four months after he wrote the memo, Wallach introduced Meese to Wedtech consultant W. Franklyn Chinn. Three months later, in May, 1985, when Meese had become attorney general, he invested $55,000 with Chinn, who made Meese a $40,000 profit in just 19 months.
Meese, whose ties to Wedtech are under criminal investigation by a special prosecutor, denies that any of his money was invested in Wedtech.