A government worker who monitors performance on Pentagon contracts and who has criticized Lockheed Martin Corp. planes is facing suspension for not cooperating in an internal leak investigation.

Kenneth Pedeleose, an industrial engineer with the Defense Contract Management Agency, was told by a superior Oct. 18 that he would be suspended for 30 days without pay for refusing to be interviewed. In a letter to Pedeleose, Air Force Col. Nicole H. Plourde, commander of the DCMA office at Lockheed's Marietta, Ga., plant, said she started the inquiry in June to find the source of a rumor that management had "targeted certain employees" to be fired.

The rumor was not true, she wrote, and was harming morale at the office. She ordered the investigation to identify the source of the rumor so it "could be promptly addressed and dispelled," she said in the letter.

Pedeleose, who has worked at the DCMA since 1994, has appealed the proposed suspension. He said in a telephone interview that the investigation appears to be an attempt to silence a group of DCMA employees at the plant that had sent reports to members of Congress over the past five years criticizing Lockheed planes. If he gets "flattened," other DCMA employees at Marietta "will rivet their mouths shut because they are that scared," he said.

Pedeleose said he sent documents to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) about alleged problems in the C-130J transport plane. The senator criticized the Air Force at a hearing for allowing Lockheed to build the plane as if it were a "commercial" product, which meant the government gave up its right to have access to the company's cost reports. The Air Force agreed this year to rewrite the contract to make that cost data available.

In response to an e-mail seeking a comment from Plourde, a DCMA spokesman said it would be "inappropriate" to comment on the Pedeleose case because of the employee's due process and privacy rights, even if he chose to discuss the matter. The agency has about 11,000 employees, most of them civilians, including 118 in Marietta, where Lockheed makes the F/A 22 fighter plane as well as the C-130J, the spokesman said.

Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense said the DCMA is not used to having its findings made public. "I suspect they are trying to send a message they don't want DCMA auditors opening their mouths," he said.

Another longtime DCMA engineer at Marietta, Henry Hegel, said he retired early rather than risk being dismissed because of Plourde's leak investigation. He called the inquiry "a way to get at whistle-blowers by taking personnel matters and turning them around. . . . If I was to stay, I would have had to release confidential sources."

Lockheed spokesman Tom Jurkowsky declined to comment on the situation. The company has about 8,000 employees at the Marietta plant.

The Defense Department's inspector general last year criticized the Air Force for entering into the "commercial" contract with Lockheed and said the service had paid $2.6 billion to accept 50 planes that were limited in the types of missions they could fly. Air Force spokesman Douglas Karas said yesterday that the problems cited in that report have been fixed and that the Air Force is pleased with the service of the four C-130Js deployed in Iraq.

Lockheed Martin is the target of a government worker who has been critical of the company's planes.