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NASA Investigation Targets ITT Cannon

Inquiry: The probe centers on alleged irregularities in a space station job. Santa Ana firm says it reviewed its contract but found no problems.

September 13, 1997|JOHN O'DELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Military electronics contractor ITT Cannon said Friday it has become the focus of a federal probe of alleged irregularities in an International Space Station contract.

But company officials said they have no idea what government investigators are looking for.

NASA informed ITT Cannon officials on Aug. 15 that NASA would send investigators to the 1,100-employee plant and headquarters in Santa Ana to interview workers involved in the space station program, the company said.

"But we have not been informed of what the allegations are or the source of them," said spokeswoman Sandra Wood. She said the company has reviewed its contract and has not found any problems.

ITT Cannon, a unit of $8.5-billion industrial giant ITT Industries, supplies electrical connectors for communications devices on the space station.

Boeing Co.'s Space Systems unit, based in Seal Beach, is the prime contractor on the $17-billion project, which involves hundreds of subcontractors that provide components, supplies and services.

ITT Cannon's subcontract, which dates to the early 1990s, is worth several million dollars but represents less than 1% of the company's total revenue, Wood said.

NASA officials confirmed the investigation but would not say what it is about or whether it stretches beyond work being done or products being used by ITT Cannon.

Officials at Boeing declined to comment on the investigation, although one spokesman said he did not know of any other space station subcontractor being interviewed by NASA.

Other industry sources also said they have not heard of a broader probe.

"If this were a very serious problem, they wouldn't have given [ITT Cannon] so much advance notice. They'd have shown up unannounced at 8 a.m. one morning and started taking boxes of documents away," said Jon Kutler, president of Quarterdeck Investment Partners. The Los Angeles firm provides financial and consulting services to the aerospace and defense industry, and Kutler has served on several industry contracting oversight committees.

Wood said that ITT Cannon's general counsel, Andrew de Cicco, sent a memo to employees on Aug. 15 informing them of the NASA probe and urging them to cooperate. She said the company is not aware of any contacts yet between its employees and NASA investigators.

The company offered to set up an interview room at the plant for the NASA investigators, according to the memo, which also informs employees that "whether or not you grant such an interview is entirely within your discretion."

ITT Cannon, de Cicco wrote, "is willing to provide company counsel to arrange for and accompany you at the interview."

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