The headquarters of Murtech, in a low-slung, bland building in a Glen Burnie business park, has its blinds drawn tight and few signs of life. On several days of visits, a handful of cars sit in the parking lot, and no trucks arrive at the 10 loading bays at the back of the building.
Yet last year, Murtech received $4 million in Pentagon work, all of it without competition, for a variety of warehousing and engineering services. With its long corridor of sparsely occupied offices and an unmanned reception area, Murtech's most striking feature is its owner, Robert C. Murtha Jr., 49. He is the nephew of Rep. John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has significant sway over the Defense Department's spending as chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.
Robert Murtha said he is not at liberty to discuss in detail what his company does, but for four years it has subsisted on defense contracts, according to records and interviews. He said Murtech's 17 employees "provide necessary logistical support" to Pentagon testing programs that focus on detecting chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, "and that's about as far as I feel comfortable going." Giving more details could provide important clues to terrorist plotters, he said.
How can a big warehouse have no semi traffic to it? How can this warehouse's offices be almost empty?
People wrongfully complained about Haliburton's no-bid contracts. Haliburton at least did important work for the money they got. Based on the Washington Post's reporters' observations, we don't know if Murtech did anything except collect a government check for doing nothing.
Here's something that'll either have you pulling your hair out or laughing uncontrollably:
Murtha said he does not advertise being the nephew of John Murtha and considers it "unfortunate" that some will unfairly assume Murtech received its federal contracts because of his uncle's influence at the Pentagon.
"If we're not doing our job well, we wouldn't be doing our job," he said. "I'm successful at the work I do because of the skill sets I have...You don't know how good someone is unless you work with them."
This is suspicious:
During an unannounced visit to Murtech headquarters last week, a reporter asking to talk to the owner was waved away by an employee. "He's not here. Come back another day," said the woman who opened Murtech's security door. "Unfortunately, everybody's stepped out."
But a few minutes later, Murtha emerged and answered questions about the company. In an interview, Murtha expressed concern that publicity could be harmful to his business.
Until Murtech can prove that they're doing vital work for the Pentagon, I won't trust them. That's due mostly to Robert Murtha's actions but it's also fair to question the things that Kit Murtha, Robert's father, and John Murtha, Kit's brother, have done in the past.
This sounds familiar:
A spokesman at Murtha's office did not return calls seeking comment. The lawmaker, a former Marine, has said in the past that he is proud of his family's service to the military and the government.