A Case of Rank vs. Privilege

How a Senator helped a contractor outflank the Navy

When it comes to railing at swollen military budgets, Congress talks a good game. But where constituents are concerned, legislators all too often pull out the purse instead of the paring knife. One such sympathetic Senator is Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania: thanks to an amendment he tucked into a defense appropriations bill, a Pennsylvania firm stands to gain as much as $10 million to cover cost overruns on a fixed-price contract with the Navy.

The favored company is the Pittsburgh-based Dravo Corp., which in 1983 underbid four other builders to win a $102.9 million contract to construct a steam plant...

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