The Defense Department last night emphatically denied General Accounting Office charges that Pentagon and Air Force leaders violated criminal and civil anti-lobbying laws in campaigning with Lockheed Corp. to win House approval for a $10 billion procurement of 50 Lockheed C5B cargo aircraft.

In an unusually harsh statement, the Pentagon alleged that a GAO report "contained numerous factual mistakes and erroneous interpretations of federal statutes" and said that the GAO "violated its own standards and procedures by denying Defense the opportunity to comment on a draft report until the day after its release."

The statement alleged that "the factual basis of the report is fatally flawed since it inexplicably fails to include or even mention the sworn testimony" given a House subcommittee last month by Defense Deputy Secretary Frank C. Carlucci and other high Pentagon officials.

"The GAO report incorrectly states that the Air Force 'engaged,' 'used,' and 'directed' Lockheed to perform certain types of lobbying activities which the Air Force itself could not legally perform," the Pentagon said. "Such a conclusion is without foundation . . . and is a gross distortion of what actually occurred."

The GAO said it was referring the possible criminal violations to the Justice Department.

The Pentagon response -- said to have been by general counsel William Howard Taft IV -- expressed "the firm conviction that neither the office of the secretary of defense nor the Air Force engaged in any improper or illegal lobbying activity."