Pentagon investigates 8 more suspicious contracts

They all involved convicted official

The Pentagon is investigating eight more Air Force contracts handled by Darleen Druyun, the former Air Force official convicted last year of giving Boeing special treatment on a tanker lease deal.

The contracts range from $42 million to $1.5 billion each, with a total value of about $3 billion, the Pentagon reported yesterday.

Michael Wynne, the acting chief of Pentagon acquisition programs, said the eight contracts were identified as suspicious from 407 reviewed by a team of military and civilian contracting experts.

The report by the Defense Contract Management Agency referred the contracts to the Pentagon's inspector general, but didn't recommend a criminal investigation, Wynne said.

The eight contracts are in addition to seven others being investigated in the growing scandal involving Druyun, who has admitted in court that she favored Boeing on deals worth billion of dollars because the company gave her daughter and son-in-law jobs. Druyun was sentenced to nine months in jail.

Druyun's admission led to a detailed review of her 10-year tenure as a key weapons buyer for the Pentagon and prompted rival defense companies to file protests over Boeing contracts awarded during that period.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., welcomed the latest review, but said a full report from the inspector general is overdue.

"This review is absolutely essential if we are finally to determine the accountability of senior civilian managers from the Air Force and Defense Department for this enormous waste of taxpayer funds, and to prevent a recurrence," Warner said in a statement.

Four of the eight contracts being reviewed involve Boeing, while two involve Lockheed Martin, one of the companies that has protested Boeing's contract awards.

Spokesmen for the companies said they would cooperate with the government to resolve questions.

"If any problems are found, we've got both the will and the processes to fix them," said Boeing spokesman Dan Beck.

Lockheed spokesman Tom Greer said that based on current information, "There's no indication or suggestion that Lockheed Martin did anything inappropriate."

Watchdog groups hailed the reviews, but said the Pentagon must take steps to make its contracting process more open and accountable to the public.

"It's important to get Darleen Druyun in jail, but we've got to fix the environment that allowed the corruption to take place," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight.

She and other critics said the Pentagon's contracting system is so dense it's literally impossible to determine what the government is paying for and how much it costs.

"That's the basic problem," Brian said. "That allows a bad apple like Darleen Druyun to operate. We don't know how many bad apples are out there."

Wynne said it's not clear if any of the eight contracts being looked at were tainted. They were singled out for review because they "seemed to be out of the normal process," he said.

Wynne said a review by the Defense Science Board will be completed by next month. The report is likely to call for better oversight of procurement policies and more emphasis on ethical issues by senior Pentagon officials, he said.

By Matthew Daly ASSOCIATED PRESS February 15, 2005 WASHINGTON

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