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Dominguez: Unethical behavior an affront to all hardworking Airmen

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (April 15, 2005) -- Unethical behavior by any person on the Air Force team is an affront to all Airmen and a breech of trust with the American people, said the service's senior leader.

Michael L. Dominguez, acting secretary of the Air Force discussed Air Force acquisition programs and the ethics of spending taxpayers’ money during testimony April 15 before the Senate Armed Services Committee subcommittee on airland.

Department of Defense Inspector General Joseph Schmitz (left) looks on as Michael L. Dominguez, acting secretary of the Air Force, answers questions during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee subcommitee on airland April 14. The subcommittee heard testimony on Air Force acquisition oversight. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi.

"I take any breech of integrity and trust seriously," Mr. Dominguez said. "I am deeply concerned that Air Force leaders and acquisition officials have lost the confidence of the members of this committee. I intend to address these issues forthright."

Some of those issues involve initial negotiations on the cost of leasing tankers to replace KC-135 Stratotankers, pricing on the small diameter bomb and the cost of the C-130 Hercules avionics modernization program. Many of those contracts fell under the watch of former Air Force acquisition official Darleen Druyun. In late 2004, Ms. Druyun was convicted and sentenced to nine months in jail for some of her criminal actions. Mr. Dominguez said the Air Force would not let that happen again.

"We must take all necessary steps to avoid abuse of trust such as those committed by Ms. Darleen Druyun," he said. "We are working closely with Mr. Michael Wynne, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, to pursue what he called ‘aggressive action’ to understand what may have contributed to this situation and how to protect against such problems in the future."

In the early 1990s, in an effort to streamline Department of Defense acquisition, certain levels of acquisition oversight were eliminated. Some senators asked Mr. Dominguez if he thought perhaps the effort had gone too far in eliminating that oversight, and if it may have lead to accrual of too much power by Ms. Druyun.

"The commercial business practices were much in vogue (at the time)," said Mr. Dominguez of experiments to streamline acquisition. "A lot of the structure, the rigor and discipline, the checks and balances did come out of the department, and it looks pretty clearly like we did go too far."

Today, Air Force officials are cooperating fully with investigative agencies looking into questionable contracts, Mr. Dominguez said. He said they have, in many cases, implemented stricter oversight procedures, even before investigative agencies have completed their reports.

"Air Force leaders are now cooperating fully with 48 different investigations by eight different agencies," he said. "We have not waited for all those to be completed before taking corrective measures. We are improving our acquisition oversight, and we are restructuring decision-making authority so that no one person exercises consolidated authority without effective oversight."

Also at issue were concerns about the nature of the commercial contract to purchase the J-model C-130 aircraft. This type of contract does not allow the Air Force or Congress to know as much about the costs of building the plane, as it would know if purchases were done under traditional government acquisition.

"I have concluded as (Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. John P. Jumper) has concluded that we were not able to appropriately defend the taxpayers’ interest here in this particular contract structure, so we are going to change that," Mr. Dominguez said.

As recently as April 12, Air Force officials worked with the manufacturer Lockheed Martin, to convert the contract to a traditional government acquisition contract.

Also related to the C-130J are costs associated with canceling the program. Besides contract cancellation costs exceeding $380 million, there is speculation that canceling that program may increase the cost of another unrelated aircraft program, the F/A-22 Raptor. Such cost increases may be because of shared overhead between the two programs, Mr. Dominguez said.

"There are overhead costs shared across the manufacture of these aircraft," he said. "When you lose one of the product lines, the overhead doesn't shrink proportionately, so there is a marginal effect in the other product lines. It is a cost-accounting issue."