The Pentagon rejected qualified experts for reconstruction work in Iraq because they were not deemed loyal to the Republican party, according to the former chief of staff of the Washington Office of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Frederick Smith.
"Some people were overlooked because they didn't meet the political saliva test," Smith, now retired, told ABC News.
Smith said political appointees at the Pentagon, including a special assistant to the secretary of defense and White House liaison, James O'Beirne, led the screening.
"We needed to get the best people out there," Smith said, "not just because they were a member of the Young Republicans Club at Michigan State."
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is now investigating the role of O'Beirne and allegations of what Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., called "an organized and systematic screening process."
In a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Waxman complained the Pentagon was refusing to cooperate and threatened to issue a subpoena for O'Beirne's testimony and Pentagon documents.
The committee also asked for all e-mails between O'Beirne and the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and "other think tanks, political parties or activists."
A spokesperson at the Pentagon said he was "unaware" of Waxman's letter. A call to O'Beirneâ€™s office was not returned.
In his interview with ABC News, Smith, the former CPA chief of staff, says he personally saw O'Beirne favor Republican candidates over others.
"We did not send our A-team to Baghdad," Smith said, recounting how O'Beirne pushed for a candidate based on the fact that he had been involved in counting chads during the presidential election recount in Florida in 2000.
Smith says he attempted to talk to O'Beirne about changing his hiring policies, but "that fell on deaf ears," he said.