Two top Navy officials dispute criticism by Pentagon audit chiefs, who say the officials failed to correct internal abuses costing taxpayers millions of dollars and hampering the effectiveness of weapons systems.

The Defense Department's inspector general's office sharply criticized H. Lawrence Garrett III, the Navy's No. 2 official, and Everett Pyatt, its top shipbuilding official, for refusing to compromise and cooperate with efforts to reduce mismanagement during the past year."Garrett and Pyatt have sent a message to the acquisition community that if you get caught doing something wrong, you're only going to get your wrist slapped," said Larry Weintrob, who heads an audit team in the Pentagon inspector general's office.

"No one at the top is holding Navy officials and contractors accountable, and that's the problem," he recently told United Press International.

Last week, Garrett and Pyatt approved a joint statement to rebut criticism of their performance.

"The Secretary of the Navy has the statutory responsibility for all affairs of the Department of the Navy and must therefore have the freedom to review the facts and circumstances in determining the appropriate management response to a given case. . . . The Navy has been in the forefront of efforts with the Defense Department to streamline and strengthen acquisition management," the statement read.

Garrett, who became Navy undersecretary last August and served as acting secretary for a month earlier this year, added in an interview: "My actions have been reasonable and prudent. There's a history of conflict between the inspector general's office and the Navy that began before I got here."

Pyatt has served since June 1981 with the Secretary of the Navy's office.

In his interview with UPI, Weintrob criticized the Navy executives for resisting disciplinary action against procurement officials, including a three-star admiral found to have breached government regulations.

"It makes you wonder," Weintrob said, referring to Garrett and Pyatt, "whether they really care about mismanagement and if they really have their heart in correcting abuses."

Deputy Pentagon Inspector General Derek Vander Schaaf echoed Weintrob's barbed comments, and said, "The secretary of the Navy's office has been fighting us tooth and nail for the longest time."

Auditors with the Pentagon inspector general's office have found serious problems with Navy weapons procurement in at least four reports dating back to June 1, 1987. In each case, Garrett, Pyatt or Pyatt's aides hotly disputed the findings and resisted carrying out recommendations.

The audits at issue examined the Phoenix air-to-air missile; the MK-46 anti-submarine torpedo; a commando patrol boat and the ship-fired Standard Missile.

An unpublished draft audit recently found that the Navy rushed into production of hundreds of $1.1 million Phoenix missiles before adequately reviewing test results, according to a Pentagon official who requested anonymity. Vander Schaaf described the response from Pyatt's office as "less than reasonable."

The Navy, which declined comment, is spending $344 million this year on the Phoenix program and has requested $465 million for fiscal 1989.