A Sept. 24 article about a Justice Department review of documents related to a proposed Boeing Co. tanker deal incompletely described the circumstances surrounding the withdrawal of Air Force Secretary James G. Roche's nomination as secretary of the Army. Roche asked that his name be withdrawn from consideration. (Published 9/25/04)

The Justice Department has been asked to review documents related to a proposed Boeing Co. tanker deal, including communications from Air Force Secretary James G. Roche, to address questions of potential conflict of interest, according to a source familiar with the case.

The Justice Department review also includes an official with the Office of Management and Budget, another source said. Both sources declined to be named because of the ongoing Justice Department review.

Roche, a 23-year Navy veteran and former Northrop Grumman Corp. executive, was a proponent of the lease-buy proposal, which the Air Force argues is necessary to address its aging fleet of refueling tankers, many of which are 40 years old. But critics have called the proposal an expensive and unnecessary attempt to boost the fortunes of Chicago-based Boeing. A decision on the deal is not expected until after the November election, when several studies of the proposal are expected to be completed.

The Air Force has not been notified of a review, but Roche welcomes any inquiry, said spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Caldwell. "Secretary Roche believes he has acted in good faith and [in] accordance with [the] law in carrying out his solemn responsibility to organize, train and equip the United States Air Force," Caldwell said.

The investigation, which was first reported by Reuters, stems from documents related to the tanker negotiations that the OMB recently turned over to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Committee member John McCain (R-Ariz.), a chief opponent of the tanker lease, had requested the documents, including e-mails and internal documents, for more than a year, arguing they could shed light on whether the Air Force acted properly in the negotiations. McCain could not be reached for comment yesterday.

While complying with the request, OMB officials discovered correspondence that could raise concerns about a possible conflict of interest, said spokesman Chad Kolton. The agency's ethics counsel and the Office of Government Ethics informally reviewed the documents and found they did not "indicate a violation of the relevant conflict-of-interest statutes," Kolton said. Kolton declined to describe the documents.

"Out of respect for their concerns [some of the Senate Armed Services Committee members], we asked the Department of Justice to review it," Kolton said. A Justice Department spokesman did not return a call for comment.

In March, the Bush administration dropped efforts to move Roche from Air Force chief to Secretary of the Army after his nomination become mired in controversy over a cadet sex scandal and the Boeing case.

The tanker deal has spurred several investigations that have reached Boeing's senior ranks. Last year, the firm fired Darleen A. Druyun, a former Air Force procurement official, who admitted illegally accepting a position with the firm while negotiating the tanker deal. Druyun has pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced next month. Boeing also fired Chief Financial Officer Michael M. Sears, who recruited Druyun to the company.

Air Force Secretary James G. Roche is included in the investigation.