ANNAPOLIS, JUNE 14 -- U.S. Naval Academy officials did not violate military procurement rules when they bought $14,000 worth of new furniture last year to redecorate a lounge for a visit by President Bush, who never used it, the Navy inspector general has concluded.
In a report this week, Vice Adm. Ming E. Chang said the academy's decision to refurbish the Halsey Field House lounge for use during the day of a ceremony in honor of retiring Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman William J. Crowe was not without merit.
Officials planned to receive Bush and other visitors in the lounge before the formal ceremony and to use the room for the ceremony in case of rain. Because the weather was good, the dignitaries assembled outside rather than in the lounge, said Lt. Cmdr. Mark Van Dyke, an academy spokesman.
The room's 35-year-old furniture had been "totally unsuitable for a presidential reception" and "needed to be reupholstered or replaced," Chang said.
Nevertheless, he said, "purchase of new furniture to support a single function could reasonably give the perception that such a purchase was wasteful," especially because "alternative furniture was available" at the academy.
One faculty member disputes Chang's description of the Halsey lounge before its makeover, saying, "A lot of people would think it looked really plush. You were in a place that had the smell of money."
The furniture investigation followed a complaint lodged through a Pentagon hot line.
According to Chang's report, academy officials, in conjuction with the Department of Defense and the Secret Service, selected the lounge for the Sept. 29 reception.
The new furnishings, which included five sofas, three loveseats, nine coffee tables, six lamps and 12 chairs, have since been used for receptions for guest lecturers or the school's athletic teams, Van Dyke said.
According to Chang's report, academy officials decided to buy new furniture after concluding that the school's upholstery shop would not have time to recover and repair the old pieces. They also decided that using furnishings from around the academy could result in a "hodgepodge lodge" appearance.
Chang said the furniture was bought on sale and was "average quality."