- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Pentagon will investigate whether a former Air Force official acted improperly in giving Boeing Co. financial information about a competing bid on a multibillion-dollar aircraft lease deal, Air Force Secretary James Roche said yesterday.

Mr. Roche said that the Defense Department’s inspector general would investigate, but that he did not know whether it would be a criminal matter.

“In other words there is an allegation, and they will investigate as to whether or not it is substantiated,” Mr. Roche said.

Documents released over the weekend by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee included an April 2002 exchange between two Boeing officials about the lease deal. The exchange said Darleen Druyun, then principal deputy assistant Air Force secretary for acquisition and management, had told Boeing that Airbus had submitted a bid that was $5 million to $17 million less per plane than the Boeing offer.

Nine months later, Miss Druyun joined Boeing. She now is deputy general manager of the company’s missile defense systems.

Boeing spokesman Doug Kennett said Miss Druyun had no comment on the issue. Mr. Kennett said Boeing is confident it received no improper information and that the data from Miss Druyun came in a standard Air Force briefing to Boeing three days after Boeing was selected for the lease deal.

“Boeing believes that we received no proprietary information from any official at any time on any subject throughout the entire tanker process,” Mr. Kennett said.

Mr. Roche, in an appearance yesterday before the Senate Commerce Committee, was asked whether it was appropriate for Boeing to have received the Airbus information.

“The use of specific numbers well may not have been appropriate,” he said. “And if it is proprietary information, it was absolutely inappropriate and that’s being looked into.”

One committee member, Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, Illinois Republican, said he was troubled to learn that a senior Air Force official could so quickly switch to working for one of the service’s biggest contractors.

“How do you prevent employees from, in essence, being rewarded by helping a private contractor by being given a job at that company?” he asked.

Mr. Roche said Miss Druyun had “stayed far away” from the tanker lease negotiations since going to Boeing.

Mr. Kennett said it was clear that Miss Druyun’s reference to Airbus’ lower prices was not meant to give Boeing inside information or provide a competitive advantage.

The Air Force wants to lease 100 modified Boeing 767 aircraft to modernize its aging fleet of aerial tankers. Some in Congress have criticized it as a sweetheart deal for Boeing and more expensive than buying the planes outright. Nonetheless, three congressional committees have given their approval.

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