The Navy plans to promote two officers who were directly associated with a procurement program that the Pentagon's inspector general says broke almost every rule in the book, including forgery of a signature on an action paper needed to get a patrol boat built.
Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.), a member of the Appropriations Committee, declaring that the inspector general's report showed the boat procurement was a "scandal," demanded in a letter to Navy Secretary James H. Webb Jr. that the officers' promotions "be withheld until the entire matter has been cleared up."
Weicker identified, and the Navy confirmed, that the officers who provoked the controversy are Rear Adm. John T. Parker, recently selected for a third star, and Cmdr. R.T. Sollenberger, selected for captain and given a ship command. Parker and Sollenberger have been investigated by the Navy for their role in the procurement of a patrol boat for the Navy Seals and other special forces of the military, the Navy said.
RMI Inc. of National City, Calif., received $10.7 million from the Navy to build the boat but went bankrupt before the first one was completed.
"The anatomy of a failure," the inspector general said in a report assailing the procurement process on the boat designated Special Warfare Craft, Medium (SWCM).
A Navy spokesman said its investigation found that Parker was only peripherally involved and that no finding has been made on Sollenberger, although the investigation of his role in allegedly photocopying the signature of now-retired Rear Adm. Edward W. Carter III and affixing it to an action paper has been completed.
The spokesman added that it is standard procedure to allow the selection process to go forward during an investigation. Selection is one step short of actually receiving the higher rank.
"The promotions of Adm. Parker and Cmdr. Sollenberger should be withheld until the entire matter has been cleared up," Weicker wrote Webb.
The senator also wrote Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the inspector general's report on the patrol boat procurement provides "real insight into how and why the weapons procurement process breaks down . . . . No amount of legislation or reorganization will solve this problem. It stems from poor leadership, a lack of integrity and incompetence."
The board of directors of the now-bankrupt RMI, documents show, included former Navy secretary Edward Hidalgo; Barry J. Shillito, former assistant secretary of defense for installations and logistics, and retired admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., former chief of naval operations.
The inspector general's report does not indicate if they were directly involved in the controversial procurement.