Embattled test range
commander to retire

A housing fund flap marred the
captain's term at Barking Sands

By Anthony Sommer

BARKING SANDS, Kauai >> Capt. Brian Moss, commanding officer of the Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility, who investigators said misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars refurbishing his government quarters, will retire on May 24 after 30 years of active duty.

Moss also was accused of needlessly spending additional hundreds of thousands of dollars bringing senior civilian Navy employees to Kauai for temporary duty.

Moss denied that he is stepping down with a cloud hanging over his head.

"I'm in a position in which I cannot defend myself," Moss said in an interview yesterday. "But I can say this much: To the best I can determine, there never was any fraud, waste or abuse.

"And there was absolutely no misuse of enlisted men's money," he added.

"It saddens me that many people feel the commanding officer of the base is guilty of something. I'm confident that, given the opportunity to defend myself in a court of law, I could prove I did nothing wrong."

Moss's office will remain empty for six to eight months until another captain is selected. The base's executive officer, Cmdr. Ron Cavazos, will be the acting commander.

Lt. Cmdr. Jane Campbell, Navy spokeswoman at Pearl Harbor, said the yet-to-be-named new commander will be a senior captain who already has held a major command, indicating the high priority given to the Pacific Missile Range.

The Navy is testing the Theater Ballistic Missile Defense system on Kauai. The Pacific Missile Range also is expected soon to begin tests of a sophisticated new Army missile defense system.

Moss, an aeronautical engineer and a fighter pilot, worked for seven years in the Navy's missile defense program in Washington, D.C., before being given command of PMRF just as testing of the systems he worked on began.

Moss's retirement ceremony is scheduled for May 24, and the senior officer will be a vice admiral, a former deputy commander of the Pacific Fleet. Moss's office asked that the admiral's name not be printed for security reasons.

Campbell said the three-star admiral is attending on a personal invitation from Moss and is no longer assigned to Pearl Harbor. She said the only officer from Pearl Harbor attending Moss's retirement "event" (as opposed to an official retirement ceremony) will be a chaplain.

An inspector general's report April 26, 2001, found Moss took money earmarked for other projects to refurbish his government quarters and to bring in numerous high-ranking civilian government employees as consultants who performed work other than why they were sent to PMRF.

Moss was given a letter of reprimand but was not relieved of command. Navy officials at Pearl Harbor hushed up the report until it was requested by a Honolulu television station tipped off by a disgruntled PMRF employee.

Navy officials said Moss had not acted illegally, but questioned his judgment. They said he technically had the authority to reshuffle housing funds. They also said he was stripped of that authority after the investigation.

The copy ultimately provided to the press under the Freedom of Information Act was highly redacted with huge sections missing. All of Moss's comments in interviews with investigators were removed, as were investigators' recommendations.

Moss said he has never "officially" been given a copy of the investigation report but that he has read it.

"When you read the report, you have to keep in mind that all of these complaints were filed by a civilian employee I fired a couple of years ago," Moss said.

The report claims that on a visit in June 1999, before he took command, Moss visited the commanding officer's residence.

Civilian contractors told investigators that it normally requires about three days of work to fix up a senior officer's quarters when the occupants change. Moss gave them a list that they estimated would require 49 days of work.

"I dare say you would not have wanted to live in that house," Moss told the Star-Bulletin.

The investigation found base housing officials told Moss that Congress has set a $20,000 refurbishment limit on officers' quarters. To get around the limit, Moss tapped numerous other officer and enlisted housing funds to be spent on his quarters, the report states.

In all, $137,000 was spent on the commanding officer's residence. Of the total, $13,123.89 went for carpeting -- including $2,698.60 in air freight from the mainland because Moss rejected locally available carpet. Also, $11,160.52 was spent to build a turnaround in the commander's driveway with a flagpole and garden as its centerpiece.

Moss, according to the report, did not like the off-white paint used to repaint the interior of the home and ordered it repainted bright white. The bill for painting the residence twice was $9,419.84.

Moss also approved the construction of two gazebos, actually beach houses: one adjoining his quarters, and the other for enlisted use. The original estimate for the two structures was a total of $15,000. Changes ordered by Moss brought the total cost for both buildings to $119,511.13, the investigation found.

The investigation also found Moss, who took command in 1999, increased the consulting budget for the missile range to $2.1 million in 2001 from $508,000 in 2000.

The report found that many of the consultants -- all of them senior civilian Navy employees -- often did not perform the duties outlined in the requests for their assignments. Once they arrived, they were given different assignments by Moss, the investigation found.

"This effort would require increases in personnel and resources, not then available at PMRF, because of the years of downsizing. To support this effort, experts were brought in to temporarily fill the gap until a more permanent solution could be institutionalized," Moss said.

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