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Thunderstorm: The improprieties discovered with the now-defunct Thunderbirds Airshow Production Services contract were no isolated case, according to a new report by the Pentagon’s inspector general issued May 20. Instead the IG’s investigation of eight contracts, including TAPS, that were awarded between October 2003 and October 2005 to support the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team, found that in seven of the contracts, Air Combat Command and the 99th Contracting Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev., violated federal acquisition regulations. The transgressions ranged from contracting officers awarding contracts without seeking competition (two cases) to not establishing a fair and reasonable price (six contracts). Underlying the issues, the IG wrote, was the perception among the contracting officials that “senior Air Force military officers and associated contractors had used the powers of their positions to impose their preferences on the contracting officers to award the contracts to specific companies.” Indeed, the IG stated that files for five of the eight contracts contained documentation “to support the appearance of a conflict of interest for senior ranking Air Force officers.” In one case, for example, the IG identified that retired Gen. Hal Hornburg, former ACC commander, acted in a manner in 2004 constituting “an appearance of a conflict of interest and potential influence on the contracting officer.” All told these eight contracts had a total value of $57.2 million, with the cancelled TAPS constituting the lion’s share of the projected dollar value. The IG is still looking into the TAPS affair, having opened up a new probe earlier this month to flush out senior-level influence, not only for possible criminal transgressions, but also ethical violations.