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Rumsfeld orders wider probe of Boeing tanker deal

Date Class
21st Jan 2004 Questionable Business Practice
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has ordered the Pentagon's in-house watchdog to expand its investigation into the Boeing Co. tanker deal to see if a former Air Force acquisition official's job search affected other contracts, officials said Tuesday.

Rumsfeld also asked Pentagon General Counsel Jim Haynes, the chief ethics officer, to review rules aimed at preventing abuses when top officials seek jobs in the defense industry after they leave the government, a Pentagon spokeswoman said.

Pentagon Inspector General Joseph Schmitz first launched a criminal investigation in September into a multibillion-dollar Air Force plan to lease 100 Boeing 767s as refueling tankers. The probe initially focused on whether former Air Force acquisitions official Darleen Druyun improperly gave Boeing, her future employer, access to a rival's proprietary data.

The probe was expanded at Rumsfeld's request in November when Boeing fired Druyun and its chief financial officer, Michael Sears, after learning Sears had approached Druyun about working for Boeing while she was still overseeing Air Force deals with Boeing.

The Justice Department is also investigating possible violations of federal laws aimed at preventing abuses when officials take jobs with companies they once oversaw.

Rumsfeld's order follows a request last year by Air Force Secretary James Roche that Pentagon Inspector General Joseph Schmitz broaden his investigation to examine how Druyun handled other big contracts during her tenure at the Air Force.

Roche mentioned Boeing contracts for upgrading NATO early warning surveillance aircraft and space programs. But the Pentagon spokeswoman had no details on the scope of the order.

One defense official said Rumfeld wants Schmitz to determine if Druyun may have been in discussion with additional companies, and if that raised any other questions.

Druyun's lawyer confirmed last year that Druyun was also in discussions with Lockheed Martin about a possible job.

Defense officials said they had expected the inspector general's office to complete their investigation of the Boeing tanker deal by the end of January, although the probe was now expected to drag on for several more months, at least.

Air Force acquisitions chief Marvin Sambur said the fiscal 2005 budget request would not include any funding for the 100 Boeing tankers, although the Air Force could ask for funding changes, once the deal won congressional approval.

The Pentagon spokeswoman said Rumsfeld separately asked Haynes to review the procedures high-ranking Pentagon officials must follow when seeking jobs after they leave government, a topic Congress plans to examine in hearings this year.

"This will involve looking at the procedures and making certain that they are understood, making certain that there are no procedural or practice problems within the department, and making any corrections if there are," the spokeswoman said.

GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, expects a formal request from Congress to investigate the so-called "revolving door" between government and the defense industry.

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has raised concerns about the flow of government officials into industry jobs, saying it creates incentives for government officials to be lenient or even to favor prospective future employers. It also gives contractors an unfair competitive advantage due to the government officials' connections and insider knowledge.




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