Pentagon Rescinds Report on Possible Leaks of Jet's Secrets

By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Pentagon's inspector general yesterday rescinded a previously issued report that said technology in the U.S. military's newest fighter plane may have been compromised by unauthorized access to facilities and computers of BAE Systems, one of the aircraft's builders.

BAE is one of the two main subcontractors working on the $300 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and is building some of the plane's electronics and weapons systems and parts of its body. Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin is the lead contractor on the jet fighter program, which is being developed by the United States and eight foreign partners, including Britain. Northrop Grumman of Los Angeles is the project's other main subcontractor.

In working on major aircraft, contractors often have to share sensitive and classified information, and the government has safeguards in place for its use.

In a March report, the Defense Department inspector general said "incomplete" Pentagon oversight may have increased "the risk of unintended or deliberate release of information to foreign competitors."

The report didn't identify specific leaks, but it criticized the Pentagon for not monitoring BAE or evaluating its security systems. It said the Pentagon couldn't verify whether BAE had submitted required security audit reports.

In rescinding its report, the inspector general said yesterday that he "did not have sufficient appropriate evidence to support the report conclusion that DOD advanced aviation and weapons technology, including classified information, at BAE Systems facilities or contained in BAE Systems information technology systems may have been compromised or is at risk for unauthorized access."

BAE had strongly disagreed with the initial report. Greg Caires, a spokesman for BAE, said "we appreciate the DOD inspector general's thoroughness and willingness to re-examine the issue."

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