The Army official who managed the Pentagon's largest contract in Iraq says he was ousted when he refused to approve more than $1 billion in questionable payments to KBR, the Houston-based company that has provided food, housing and other services to U.S. troops.

Speaking out for the first time, Charles M. Smith said that he was forced out in 2004 after telling KBR officials the Army would impose escalating penalties if they failed to improve operations. "They had a gigantic amount of costs they couldn't justify," he said. But he was suddenly replaced, he said, and his successors approved most of the payments. Army officials denied Smith had been removed because of the dispute but confirmed reversing his decision. NEW YORK TIMES