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Defense Dept. to Supervise Acquisitions for Air Force

By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 29, 2005; Page E01

The Defense Department announced yesterday that its acquisition chief temporarily will take over supervision of nearly two dozen procurement programs from the Air Force, which has been operating for months without several of its top civilian leaders.

This "action is not a punitive one, rather it is meant to assist the Air Force by overseeing and providing advice on important Air Force programs during a time of transition," Michael Wynne, the Pentagon's undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a statement.

Boeing's C-17 Globemaster cargo plane contract is one of 21 programs that will be administered by the Air Force's new interim acquisitions director. (Staff Sgt. Mitch Fuqua -- U.S. Air Force)

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Wynne will make major decisions on the programs until a new Air Force secretary is in place, the statement said.

The 21 programs, worth about $200 billion, include missile and space projects as well as Lockheed Martin Corp.'s $6.23 billion C-130J Hercules and Boeing Co.'s $59.21 billion C-17 Globemaster cargo plane programs. The Air Force's two largest weapons systems, the F/A-22 jet and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, already are supervised by the Pentagon.

The Air Force's acquisition process has been under scrutiny since a former top procurement official, Darleen A. Druyun, admitted showing Boeing favoritism before taking a job with the aerospace giant. For example, Druyun told prosecutors she showed Boeing favoritism in the competition for the C-130 modernization program. Last month, the Government Accountability Office recommended and the Air Force agreed to hold a new competition for at least part of the contract.

Two of the Air Force's top civilian leaders -- Secretary James G. Roche and Marvin R. Sambur, the acquisitions chief -- resigned last year following controversy over a program to lease and then buy tanker aircraft from Boeing. The Air Force also needs to replace former undersecretary Peter B. Teets, who oversaw space programs, and served as acting secretary until his retirement last week.

Michael L. Dominguez, the assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, is now the acting Air Force secretary.

The White House declined to comment on when it would nominate a new Air Force secretary and it is unclear how long the arrangement will last. The Pentagon asked the Air Force to provide a list of all significant decisions scheduled during the next six months.

The Air Force said in a statement that it "welcomes [the Pentagon's] guidance and oversight."

"There are just not the people there that can sign the necessary documents," said Brett Lambert, a defense industry consultant. "There needs to be a clear line of authority for decision making.

"The way that all of the secretaries have been treated recently, I am not sure there is a long line of applicants for any job," Lambert added. "It's a very difficult position. This administration really wanted to give the secretaries a lot of power and teeth in a corporate perspective. The unintended consequence of that is that they had a lot more scrutiny and politicization than they have before."

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