A two-star Air Force general wrote his aides that "I'm not overly concerned about unapproved work" on an $800 million project Congress had ordered stopped, according to documents released yesterday.
Maj. Gen. Robert L. Edge, Air Force assistant chief to staff for communications and computer resources, continued in recent handwritten memo that Congress "doesn't know about" the computers the service was buying despite the order, and he asked, "Why rock the boat unnecessarily?"
"A classic exhibition of contempt here on the part of the Air Force for the Congress." charged Reps. John E. Moss (D-Calif) and Charles Rose (D-N.C.) in letters to President Carter and Defense Secretary Harold Brown protesting the Air Force's going ahead with a project Congress had canceled.
Moss is the third-ranking Democrat on the Government Operations Committee, while Rose is chairman of the House Administration computer of subcommittee. They sent their file of evidence of all alleged illegal Air Foce activity to the White House, Pentagon, General Accounting Office and House and Senate Appropriatings Committees.
Project Max, according to the file, was a new name for part of the $800 million Advanced Logistics System the Air Force wanted to install to keep track of its aircraft repair program through computers and data processing. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees in a 1975 conference report on the Pentagon's money bill ordered the system halted until the Air Force justified it anew.
Everett. T. Keech, assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management, said in a telephone interview last night that the Air' Force "had no intention of defying Congress" in proceeding the project Max, but felt it was acting within the constraints imposed by the conference report.
The report, under Keech's interpretation, allowed the Air Force to do "mission essential" work on the management system. Keech said Project max work since 1975 has been in that category. He added that the management system is vitally needed to manage aircraft repair efficiently.
A. Ernest Fitzgerald, the Air Force management executive who got fired after blowing the whistle on the balooning cost of the Lockheed C-5 cargo plane, disagreed with his boss, Keech.
Project Max, Fitzgerald said in a telephone interview, is really a system "for justifying costs rather than controlling them. It's the same system Lockhead and Boeing use to justify their costs.?"
Further, said Fitzgerald, Project, Max is clearly part of the canceled Advanced Logistics System and thus "apparently illegal. It's pretty dark" to spend taxpayer money after Congress said not to, Fitzgerald argued.
Fitzgerald is back in his old Air Force productivity job on the basis of a Civil Service Commission order, but he said he was cut off from Project Max activities after raising object Max.
Gen. Edge was asked through an aide to explain his memo, but did not return the call y esterday. Keech said the Edge memo, obtained by Reps. Moss and Rose, "is apparently authentic". Keech said he could not explain Edge's remark about not being "overly concerned about unapproved work".
The general, in an apparent reference to Chairman John L. McClellan (D-Ark.) and George H. Mahon (D-Tex.) of the Senate and House Appropriations committees, respectively, said it was "unlikely that either chairman will read lengthy attachments" on Project Max "or understand them if they do."