Pentagon EHR contract award under investigation

The Pentagon is investigating allegations by a Military Health System employee that the MHS improperly awarded a contract to a small but well-connected IT firm to help build an EHR system that is interoperable with VistA at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

NextGov reports that Maj. Frank Tucker, chief of product development for the Defense Health Information Management System, was instructed last month by a superior to give software and related documentation to San Jose, CA-based Adara Networks several days before the company won a sole-source contract to provide hardware and software for the Defense Health Information Management System program. Adara was the beneficiary of earmarks inserted into Department of Defense appropriation bills for fiscal years 2008 and 2009 by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Cochran is attempting to put another Adara earmark into the 2010 funding legislation, according to NextGov. One earmark last year was a $4 million appropriation for a "next-generation networking electronic medical records project."

Adara reportedly has revenue of just $8 million a year and fewer than 50 employees, but it won Department of Defense contracts worth $7.2 million in 2007 and $13.7 million in 2008. The company reportedly paid $240,000 in lobbying fees to a firm with ties to former Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), a level of spending usually associated with much larger companies.

And the possible Cochran-Mississippi connection? NextGov reporter/columnist Bob Brewin found that Adara and Sun Microsystems were to install telecommunications infrastructure for an upscale housing development just outside Jackson, MS, the state capital. A predecessor company also won a contract in 2003 to provide a broadband network to the University of Mississippi with the same routers Adara plans to use in the MHS system.

To learn more about this investigation:
- see Tucker's accusations in this NextGov story
- read about the earmarks in this follow-up piece
- learn the Mississippi connection in Brewin's blog post
- find out what Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) thinks of the revelations in this post