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Murtha Earmarks Funded Garment Company’s Sonar Project

He also had a lobbying firm — KSA Consulting, which included Kit Murtha, the Congressman’s brother, and Carmen Scialabba, the Congressman’s former Appropriations Committee aide, as lobbyists on the KDH account. Herbener told Roll Call: “KSA Consulting has provided marketing and related services to KDH. KSA introduced KDH to Congressman Murtha.”

Herbener’s October 2004 slides for the swimmer detection project indicated that KDH was “teamed with” two other Pennsylvania companies with close connections to Murtha, Kuchera Defense Systems and Coherent Systems International — also a KSA client.

An attorney for Kuchera said “they have never teamed with KDH on any projects.” Herbener told a federal court that Coherent dropped out days after the initial contract was signed.

Kuchera and Coherent have received millions of dollars in earmarks from Murtha. Kuchera was raided by the FBI in January, reportedly as part of an investigation into the company’s government contracts. Coherent is party to a federal case in Florida alleging that other subcontractors skimmed from Coherent earmarks.

Herbener ended up hiring a British sonar company called Curtis Technology to develop the electronics for the underwater sonar, a relationship that dragged through a series of delays and disputes until Herbener finally filed suit in federal court in Pennsylvania in May 2008.

In testimony in that case last September, Herbener explained that the sonar project was not actually a project of KDH Defense Systems — it was a separate company that he established in 2005 called KDH Electronic Systems. That company “is a startup,” Herbener testified. “We were hoping this sonar system would be our first product.”

In September, Herbener told the court, “The program in general has gone waylaid.” Disputes with Curtis Technology led to repeated delays, and the original customer — the U.S. Navy — “has pretty much given up on us and they’ve moved on,” buying a similar system from a competitor company.

KDH shifted to an Army contract with the U.S. Special Operations Command when the procurement official overseeing the project moved from the Navy to the Army, Herbener said. But because of concerns about the project, “they’ve refused to reward the contract to us and we’re on the verge of running out of funding,” he testified.

Working with Curtis and other contractors, KDH managed to construct a prototype, but Herbener told the court: “The current prototype is a prototype. It’s not intended to be built in any kind of quantities.”

“Ultimately, to have a production system, we would most likely change out components, hardware, probably rearrange components, maybe redesign,” he said.

Herbener told Roll Call on Monday: “The situation with Curtis has definitely slowed down our progress. I am most confident that if the Curtis issues had not arisen, our sonar system would have been produced and in full operation by now.”

But he also said that the protype has been successfully tested four times and that KDH is continuing to make progress on the sonar system. Herbener said he has hired a new subcontractor and that “as funding permits we firmly believe we can field an end item production system in short order — possibly 3 to 6 months.”

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