An article last Wednesday describing the controversy over a draft report by the Packard Commission, which is studying Defense Department procurement problems, should have credited an earlier story that appeared in The Baltimore Sun.
President Reagan's Blue Ribbon Panel on Defense Management shelved a 100-page draft report that conservative Republican members considered too negative in its characterizations of Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger's Pentagon, according to commission sources.
The draft set off a controversy within the commission earlier this month and raised questions about its ability to present detailed findings and recommendations to the White House by the Feb. 28 deadline.
Commission sources said the dispute centers on stylistic issues, and that the panel has reached a consensus on the need for far-reaching reforms to overhaul Pentagon acquisition policy, streamline its decision-making and increase the advisory powers of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
But some members, including Reagan's former national security affairs adviser William P. Clark, opposed the language of the draft report as too trenchant in criticizing Pentagon management.
Reagan appointed the bipartisn, 15-member panel in July, amid a series of weapon procurement scandals. As recently as last week, the president said the commission's forthcoming assessment will answer the "propaganda" of critics who depict the Defense Department as wasteful and inefficient.
The draft report, authored by panel member James Woolsey, President Jimmy Carter's undersecretary of the Navy, portrayed Pentagon problems in colorful language filled with allegories and metaphors, sources said.
One controversial passage compared stewardship of the Pentagon to the story of the "Sorcerer's Apprentice," the master magician's young helper who learned how to start the magic but not how to stop it, so that everything went out of control. The Woolsey draft referred to the thousands of regulations designed to bring order to the procurement process but ended up creating bureaucratic chaos, sources said.
At another point, Woolsey wrote that one of the laws of bureaucracy codified by C. Northcote Parkinson -- that the importance of an item is inversely proportional to the attention given to it -- has been "observed religiously" by the current focus on such procurement "horror stories" as the purchase of $640 toilet seat covers for Navy planes.
The public's preoccupation with symptoms rather than the causes of these problems, he wrote, is "sillier" than Parkinson's fictional corporate directors who quickly decided to buy a nuclear reactor and then spent a long time debating the best way to build an employe bicycle shed and the proper kind of coffee pot for the cafeteria.
Several panelists favored Woolsey's draft for its snappy presentation and dramatization of the arcane world of military procurement, sources said. His supporters included William J. Perry, defense undersecretary for research and development in the Carter administration.
But Clark and Herbert Stein, the chief economic adviser to President Richard M. Nixon and a member of Reagan's economic policy advisory board, argued that the draft was too "argumentative and conclusory," according to a source. They feared it would undermine the panel's credibility and obscure its recommendations, he said.
Stein urged that the report be "dulled up" to sound more like a presidential commission's findings, another source said.
Commission Chairman David Packard, the West Coast industrialist who served as deputy defense secretary in the Nixon administration, also opposed the draft's language, sources said.
"It was negative throughout," a commission member said.
Panelists said that although Weinberger has run the Pentagon for the past five years, he should not be blamed for management problems because of their historic nature. The Woolsey draft, however, was so hard-hitting that "it might have been taken out of context" and seen as a slap at the secretary, a source said.
"There's no debate over Cap the good guy, Cap the bad guy," said a panelist. "It's the process."
Disagreement over the Woolsey draft surfaced at a meeting two weeks ago, sources said. A decision was made to turn over drafting of the report to the panel's staff while style and substance continue to be ironed out by members.
One panelist said members face a "major hurdle" in resolving their differences by Feb. 28.
Commission spokesman Herb Hetu said the panel will render a "bare-bones list of recommendations with a short rationale" in a report of 15 to 20 pages. He said the recommendations will come from the Woolsey draft shorn of its rhetorical flourishes. The deadline is for an interim report, with a final version due June 30.