New OSI detachment bolsters Pacific presence

  • Published
  • By Thomas Brading, OSI Public Affairs

In a move aimed at enhancing investigative efforts in the Indo-Pacific region, the Office of Special Investigations launched a new detachment, Office of Procurement Fraud Det. 8, May 12, 2023, at Yokota Air Base Station, Japan. 

PF Det. 8 is expected to be fully manned by the end of 2023, said Jason Hein, OSI PF director, adding the detachment is currently stood up as an entity with three billets in place with the promise of more personnel as incumbents phase out from other areas of PF. 

Once operational, “we will be running major procurement and fraud investigations, so basically the same thing we do in the U.S.,” Hein said. These cases typically involve losses to the government which exceed $500,000.

"Overseas, we tend to focus more closely on public corruption issues, conflicts of interest and environmental matters," Hein added. These investigations become even more critical with the ongoing expansion and infrastructure buildup in the area. 

The news comes as OSI recalibrates its focus toward the Pacific Defense Initiative, Hein said, and hones its attention toward the Indo-Pacific. As OSI shifts its attention, potential situations involving product substitution and contractor fraud naturally shift, too.

Take, for instance, a contractor tasked with constructing a new flightline. If they decide to deceitfully cut corners - quite literally - by reducing the standard thickness of the runway by a few inches, they will not only illegally boost their profits, but their fraudulent actions could also have dire implications for warfighters in the future, Hein explained. 

"What happens then is the runway cracks up to pieces of cement that get sucked into engines as the planes are taking off,” he said. “And now you've got a weapon system that's not operational.”

While this scenario isn't drawn from a real investigation, it exemplifies the type of potential crime the new detachment might investigate. It also encapsulates, Hein believes, the core mission of OSI PF.

"My position has always been that PF is protecting the warfighter of the future," Hein continued. "We don't want airplanes falling out of the sky 15 years from now because we weren't vigilant and there was significant product substitution going on while they were being manufactured." 

While Hein and OSI's procurement fraud investigators maintain their focus on ensuring future safety and lethality, the creation of PF Det. 8 is a process that has been underway for several years.

"We've been talking about the idea probably for about five years, and then in 2019 and 2020 we started looking at overseas locations for PF,” Hein said. 

It started with an assessment in Europe, and the model was subsequently applied to the Indo-Pacific region. Japan emerged as a viable location for the new detachment by Oct. 2021.

The opening of PF Det. 8 in Japan synchronizes efforts with military investigators in Korea, in turn bolstering the military's mission in the Indo-Pacific. "By covering Japan, with Army in Korea, it helps synchronize efforts to maximize the protection of the military’s mission in the Indo-Pacific,” Hein said. 

In addition, “the detachment's location at Yokota was a strategic choice,” Hein said, “because it's by a major airport. Anything that's going to happen over in the Pacific is going to involve having to fly somewhere due to the nature of the Pacific, which is comprised of many islands."

In the end, "OSI is taking fraud and corruption seriously, everywhere that we are deployed,” he said. “This is just another example of OSI being out there and getting fraud investigators out into the operational parts of the Department of the Air Force."