Gordon Rule["Rickover Brought It Upon Himself," Free for All, Dec. 5] said that Adm. Hyman Rickover has brought the decision to force his retirement "upon himself because of his neglect in having a capable successor ready to take over his duties in an orderly manner if and when he becomes incapacitated." Rule ignores Navy directives that provide that if Rickover becomes incapacitated, his deputy (now J. W. Vaughan) becomes the acting director until a successor is appointed. In the present case, the absence of the admiral is assured.
Rule accused me of being "notorious throughout the U.S. Navy as the hit man for Rickover--he has been the chief negotiator and enforcer of the many unfair Navy nuclear ship contracts forced upon nuclear shipbuilders of this country by Rickover." It is, of course, unpleasant to find yourself accused in The Post of being a "notorious hit man" and "enforcer," the type of accusation Rule frequently levels at the admiral and those who have worked for him. The accusation is false: I haven't used a gun since I earned an expert rifleman medal at the Naval Academy 38 years ago.
Further, Rule knows that I was not the "chief negotiator" for any contract. For some contracts I was a member of the negotiating team established by the Naval Sea Systems Command and headed by a representative of its contracts division. The contracts as negotiated were reviewed by many people, including Rule's superiors--and Rule himself in many cases--before they were signed.
Rule's charge of "unfair" contracts "forced" upon shipbuilders by Rickover is ridiculous. No one in the Navy has the authority or the power to force any contractor to accept a contract. Further, neither Rickover nor anyone in his organization has the authority to sign a Navy con- tract. Neither the Navy nor the shipbuilders would have signed the contracts if they had considered them unfair. Rule has given speeches stating that the huge shipbuilding claims of a few years ago were the result of "unfair" contracts and has blamed Rickover and me to a great extent. The facts do not support his accusations. For example, when the Navy was negotiating the contract to construct the carriers Nimitz and Dwight D. Eisenhower, Rule observed most of the negotiating sessions. He approved the contract subject to comments, which were resolved. As the second ship was nearing completion, the shipbuilder expected to recover all costs for both ships plus a profit. Nevertheless, the shipbuilder submitted a claim for a ceiling price increase of $221 million, the largest claim submitted by that shipbuilder. The claim examiners concluded that most of this claim as well as many other claims lacked merit. In fact, after review by its attorneys, the Navy referred many of the items in the claims to the Justice Department for investigation of possible fraud.
The Navy finally obtained the shipbuilder's agreement to settle the total contract for the two carriers for a ceiling price increase of $40.2 million. To reach even this figure the Navy payment included $8.5 million that the examiners did not think was really owed but that its lawyers thought might be lost in litigation; $8 million estimated by the Navy lawyers as what it would have cost the government to litigate the claim (instead of spending the money on litigation it was given to the shipbuilder); and $15.7 million of extra contractual relief.
The Post lends an aura of credibility to Rule's unfounded charges and misleads its readers by stating that Rule "retired in 1976 as the Navy's director of procurement." Rule was at no time the Navy's director of procurement. When he retired he was director of the Procurement Control and Clearance Division, one of the divisions under the deputy chief of naval material, procurement and production. In the Navy's procurement hierarchy, there were seven levels of officials over him, both civilian and military, each of whom had authority to sign contracts for the Navy.
Rule did not have authority to sign contracts, with one exception. This involved a contract for a cruiser that the Navy and the Justice Department held was valid and the shipbuilder argued was invalid. Rule was assigned the task of trying to negotiate a settlement and was given Navy contracting officer authority. He proposed a contract modification acceptable to the shipbuilder. However, a group appointed by the chief of naval material concluded it was deficient. Rule signed the modification and delivered it to the shipbuilder in violation of a direct order not to do so. His contracting officer authority was immediately withdrawn.
The deputy U.S. attorney general rejected the proposed settlement. The Justice Department obtained a decision from the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that the modification was not binding on the government. The Justice Department and Navy lawyers subsequently negotiated a settlement of the contract with the shipbuilder at a lower cost to the taxpayers than the agreement signed by Rule.
Rule's charge of "unfair" contracts "forced" upon shipbuilders suggests that Rickover's forced retirement may be the result of the influence of contractors resentful of the admiral's position that the Navy should pay only what it contractually owes and should reject unsubstantiated claims for public funds.