A top Pentagon procurement official has written to defense contractors exploring the prospects for getting a job as a consultant to the defense industry after she leaves the government, Defense Department and industry sources said yesterday.

Mary Ann Gilleece, deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition management, acknowledged that she has "written to some defense contractors for purposes of assessing the possibility of beginning a new corporation." In remarks relayed by a Pentagon spokesman, Gilleece said that she did not use official stationery for her business inquiries, and that she consulted the Defense Department's ethics adviser in April, before "making any contacts."

The spokesman said last night that the department's general counsel is "looking into" the case.

Gilleece declined to be interviewed.

Under the Pentagon's Standards of Conduct, officials who discuss employment prospects with private companies must disqualify themselves from any government relationship with those companies. It is unclear whether Gilleese has formally disqualified herself from official dealings with the defense contractors she contacted.

"We're concerned that someone who deals with contractors may not be holding them at arm's length," a Pentagon official said.

Gilleece, who oversees the Pentagon's acquisition of $100 billion a year in weapons from defense contractors, has told industry officials she plans to leave her post this year and may become a consultant to firms seeking defense work.

She also is being considered for the presidency of the Aerospace Industries Association of America, a major trade group for defense contractors, industry sources said. It is unclear when Gilleece intends to leave the Pentagon, but she is known to be unhappy with Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger's plans to name a defense procurement czar who would report directly to him. Weinberger is expected to fill the post next week, and Gilleece is not among his candidates, officials said.

As the Pentagon's acquisition manager for the past two years, Gilleece is known for her staunch support of the defense industry, under attack in Congress for billing excesses and cost overruns on weapons systems.

Nine of the nation's top 10 defense contractors are under criminal investigation by the Pentagon for allegations including bribery, kickbacks, false claims, gratuities, bid-rigging, overcharging and product substitution.