A former high-ranking Air Force procurement official was sentenced to nine months in federal prison yesterday after admitting that she approved excessive prices on contracts awarded to Boeing Co. to enhance her job prospects with the company.
Conceding that she lied to prosecutors, Darleen A. Druyun, 56, revealed that she committed the Air Force to buy 100 airplanes from Boeing at an inflated price of about $20 billion as a "parting gift" before her Pentagon retirement to ingratiate herself with her future employer. She also slipped to Boeing proprietary pricing information from a rival European bidder on the aircraft contract. Druyun awarded Boeing an unrelated $4 billion contract because she felt in debt to the company for hiring her daughter and future son-in-law, according to court documents. An "objective selection" process, she said, may not have picked Boeing from the four competitors.
Boeing fired Darleen A. Druyun in November.
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In a quivering voice, Druyun apologized before U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria, telling the court she felt "shame and remorse" that her 30-year tenure as a government employee "has been tarnished. . . . I understand that this was wrong and I regret any damage my conduct may have caused to the Air Force."
Druyun's case is the highest-profile defense procurement scandal since the Operation Ill Wind investigation, which resulted in more than 60 convictions starting in the late 1980s. It is expected to ripple throughout the industry, renewing concern about the potential pitfalls of the revolving door between government and the defense industry. Chicago-based Boeing, the Pentagon's second-largest contractor, will likely face fresh questions about several of its contracts, and the procurement system that allowed Druyun to favor one company over another will come under sharper scrutiny.
The Air Force said it has already taken steps to ensure Druyun's conduct is not repeated, saying her long tenure allowed her to gain more power than was proper. "This was a case of an individual who engaged in personal misconduct and does not reflect the high levels of integrity and accountability within the Air Force acquisition community," said Col. Jay DeFrank, Air Force spokesman.
Druyun, a civilian, was at the grade of a lieutenant general when she retired and became vice president in charge of Boeing's missile defense systems in January 2003. Druyun's Boeing salary -- $250,000 plus a $50,000 signing bonus -- was nearly double the top Pentagon pay for her position.
Officials said Druyun admitted the extent of her deceptions only after being subjected to a polygraph test. She acknowledged altering her personal journal before turning it over to prosecutors. "She did great harm to the government, and that harm is continuing now," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert W. Wiechering.
In addition to nine months in prison, Ellis ordered Druyun to serve seven months in a community facility, which could include a halfway house or home confinement. She also received three years of probation. Prosecutors had asked for 16 months in prison. Before prosecutors uncovered her deceptions, Druyun was eligible for up to six months in prison or just probation.
Boeing said Druyun's admissions of years of preferential treatment to the company came as a surprise. "Our reputation is being tested once again," Harry C. Stonecipher, Boeing president and chief executive, said in a message to the company's 157,000 employees. "We don't know how this will come out; but whatever we find, we have the will and a process to deal with it."
"It's going to take time, but we'll get through this," Stonecipher said.