Opponents blasted congressional candidate Jerry Torres after unearthed video shows the longtime defense contractor bailed on a 2010 federal hearing. But Torres says the video is misleading as he testified on a rescheduled date.
Republican James Judge pointed to a video of a 2010 hearing for the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq & Afghanistan. That entity formed in 2008 following criticism of the Department of Defense outsourcing in the war.
At the 2010 hearing, Michael Thibault, former director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, publicly chastised Torres — then CEO of Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions (AES) — for sidestepping scrutiny. Torres did not appear and his attorney said he was “nervous” about the questioning session, Thibault said.
“Mr. Torres ought to be nervous,” Thibault said. “This commission was going to ask him under oath why his firm agreed in January to assume private security at forward operating base Shield with several hundred guards that had not been properly vetted and approved.”
For his part, Torres said he could not show up on the original date because he had duty with the Army Reserves, where he at the time actively held the rank of master sergeant.
“I did show up. I did testify,” he said. The commission met for two weeks in July of that year. Torres spoke on July 26, and his testimony is still available to watch in C-SPAN archives.
He accused Judge of distorting the truth to score political points.
He also pushed back at characterizations of the work done by Torres AES in Iraq.
Going back to the original meeting, Thibault related Torres had personally flown to Iraq to try and pressure command at the base to use his staff even though they were unqualified to provide needed security and another contractor had already been contacted about the work.
“Mr. Torres essentially said continuously for a period of time that this was all about paperwork and wasn’t a big deal,” Thibault said.
Despite this, Torres AES landed several more contracts, which were awarded based on lowest bids and unrelated to past performance, something the Commission heavily criticized.
“We have a major issue that needs to be addressed and our primary witness has hunkered down in the rocks,” Thibault said of Torres.
The video was posted on YouTube by Judge’s campaign, and Judge re-upped calls for Torres to drop out of the race.
“Jerry Torres has demonstrated he doesn’t care about national security, and he doesn’t care about the safety and security of our men and women in uniform,” Judge said.
“This video clearly shows that Torres put American military personnel in harm’s way when he was charged with protecting them, just so he could get paid. How can a guy with such blatant disregard for the safety of American service members feel entitled to represent Americans in our nation’s capital?”
Torres, though, said he agreed with Commission recommendations that contracts be bid with quality as a key criteria, not just cost. And he said all of the contracts with the military in Iraq and Afghanistan were awarded with that in mind.
“Those were not low-bid contracts,” Torres said. “They were based on past performance.” And Torres AES landed a lot of them, about 40 different service contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Moreover, Torres said he personally lobbied Congress to make sure more contracts go out based on performance instead of just low-bid. For example, he said embassy security still by practice go to the lowest bidder, and he hs called on lawmakers to make those technical proposal assessments instead.
“We should never have low-bid contracts,” he said, and stressed he supported Commission findings on the matter.
Notably, Torres cited his work at Torres AES and providing security at U.S. installations overseas when he first filed to run for Congress. He sold the global consulting company in 2019 to Devex, where he remains on the board of directors, and he has largely self-funded his campaign.
Judge, Torres and Sam Nashasgh are now running for the Republican nomination in Florida’s 14th Congressional District. The winner will face Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
The Florida Democratic Party has sued for Torres to be disqualified as a candidate because his paperwork wasn’t notarized in person. A trial begins Thursday.