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Air Force Seeks Contract Reviews

By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 9, 2004; Page E01

The Air Force has asked the Department of Defense to lead a review of contracts awarded by a former procurement official who has admitted giving Boeing Co. preferential treatment, expanding an investigation into ethical lapses in the granting of projects.

Darleen A. Druyun was sentenced to nine months in federal prison Oct. 1 after admitting she gave Chicago-based Boeing preferential treatment for years because she felt indebted to the firm for its hiring of her daughter and son-in-law. Druyun accepted a position as a Boeing vice president after retiring from the Air Force. Boeing has said it was not aware of receiving any preferential treatment.

As part of the wider review, the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory group, is expected to review the Air Force's procurement system and possibly those of the other services as well, said Marvin Sambur, the Air Force acquisition chief. The Government Accountability Office has been asked to settle protests filed on behalf of Boeing competitors following Druyun's admissions of preferential treatment on a C-130 modernization contract.

Sambur said he made the requests of Michael W. Wynne, the Pentagon's acting acquisition chief, earlier this month. "The problem is that it's very difficult from a perception point of view for us to say we're completely clean given that she's made these admissions," he said. "So we're in a no-win position as an evaluator."

During nine years as the Air Force's deputy acquisition chief, a number two position, Druyun often operated without supervision and served as the final authority on eleven contracts worth more than $30 billion. Of those contracts, five either were awarded to Boeing alone or split between Boeing and others, according to an Air Force document.

"We're looking to see if there are any decisions that she made that people disagreed with, and she didn't allow that disagreement to be known," said Sambur, who was Druyun's boss. "Were there any cases where she took an evaluation from the . . . advisory group and changed it?"

The Air Force made significant changes to the acquisition system after Druyun resigned in November 2002, he said. Senior civilian officials are now on rotation and not allowed to stay in the same position for several years, said Sambur. Druyun was in her position for nine years. That position has now been eliminated, and most competitions are decided by lower-level program executives, Sambur said. Druyun also used to make all decisions about bonuses paid to contractors, but those decisions are now made by program managers based on objective standards, he said.

"It seemed to me that all of the contracting decisions were being made out of her office, and that wasn't right," Sambur said.

The changes were made before Druyun admitted steering work to Boeing and the Air Force now wants to ensure that they went far enough, Sambur said. The Air Force wants to "see that if we have changed the procurement system sufficiently so that we won't have this Achilles heel in which an individual can abuse her power," he said.

Wynne is expected to expand the review to the other services, including the Navy and Army, perhaps establishing uniform practices throughout the agency. The Department of Defense "is looking at a number of options to ensure that transparent processes take place in all aspects of contracting," a department representative said.

The Air Force also wants the GAO to rule on protests filed by Boeing's competitors on a $4 billion contract to upgrade the electronics on the C-130 transport plane. Druyun admitted that an objective source may not have selected Boeing for the contract.

Lockheed Martin Corp. and BAE Systems PLC filed protests with the Air Force last month. Spokesmen for both companies said yesterday they would re-file the protests with the GAO. The other competitor, Raytheon Co., sold the business unit that competed for the contract to L-3 Communications, which has also filed a protest. An L-3 representative said it could not comment on protests.

"When we found out the things she admitted to, it was a tremendous blow to everybody here," Sambur said. "Integrity is thought of as so sacred within the Air Force."

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