President Reagan and former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger failed to support efforts to reform the multibillion-dollar Pentagon weapons-buying system, and the result is a "national crisis," says the Pentagon's former acquisitions czar.
Richard P. Godwin says he quit his job last September because Reagan and Weinberger showed an "unwillingness to make some hard decisions."Godwin is likely to be among the witnesses when Congress begins hearings next week into Pentagon purchasing, the subject of a mushrooming criminal investigation.
The investigation focuses on whether private consultants, many of them former defense officials, bribed Pentagon employees for inside information and then sold the details to contractors. The secret information could have given the recipients the advantage in winning contracts worth billions of dollars.
Congress wants to know how many "rotten apples" are among the people buying weapons for the Pentagon and whether the military purchasing system itself is to blame, leaders said Thursday.
The hearings will be held separately by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and will not review the ongoing criminal investigation into whether private consultants bribed Pentagon officials for inside information about contracts.
The House Armed Services Committee will go first, with a hearing next week, said Warren Nelson, a spokesman for the Democratic-controlled panel.
"We are not investigating the criminal case," Nelson said Thursday. "What we are looking at are the by-products of the case, such as what happens to the contracts that are under a cloud."
The Senate Armed Services Committee has tentatively scheduled hearings July 12-13, said chairman Sam Nunn, D-Ga. The panel met behind closed doors Thursday afternoon with Navy Secretary William Ball.
"We will not have hearings on the investigation," Nunn said. "The last thing we want to do is interfere with the ongoing investigation."
The hearings will be "on the general procurement system," he explained, "to find whether there are a few rotten apples or many rotten apples or basic flaws in the procurement system."
In another development, United Technologies Corp. has asked U.S. District Judge John H. Pratt to allow the company to examine a government affidavit supporting last week's search warrant that the judge had issued in the Pentagon bribery probe, UTC attorney Brian C. Elmer said today.
The search warrant enabled FBI agents to search the downtown Washington office of Eugene Tallia, a vice president for Washington operations of the company's Pratt & Whitney engine-manufacturing unit.
UTC lawyers said they wanted to examine the affidavit to determine whether the search was proper.
The FBI asserted in the search warrant that Pratt & Whitney possessed sensitive documents that rival General Electric Co. had submitted to the Defense Department in competing for hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts.
Lawyers for the company and Tallia told the judge in a motion that they want the affidavit kept secret to protect the privacy of anyone named in the affidavit. A court clerk said the government would be given an opportunity to respond.
Godwin said in an interview with The Associated Press that he quit in frustration last fall after spending 18 months as the Pentagon's top procurement official, a position created in the wake of earlier defense spending embarrassments such as the purchase of $400 hammers.
The multibillion-dollar Pentagon purchasing system has become a "national disgrace" comparable to drug trafficking, he said.
"We have institutionalized a bad system," he said.
Godwin said he was thwarted in his attempts to centralize the Pentagon's weapons-buying authority and remove it from the service heads - "warlords," to use Godwin's term - who now lobby Congress and approve contracts for weapons.
Godwin said he resigned "basically when I wasn't supported by the president or the secretary of defense" in his attempt to establish a centralized purchasing information system. Asked why, he replied: "I don't know. They just didn't support it."
Both Reagan and Weinberger have said some amount of dishonesty is likely in such a large operation, but they also have called for swift punishment of any lawbreakers.
The 2-year-old criminal investigation became public last week, when dozens of search warrants were served on Pentagon officials, consultants and some of nation's biggest defense contractors.
Henry Hudson, the chief prosecutor, told congressmen on Wednesday the probe focuses on 75 to 100 contracts worth "tens of billions of dollars." No one has been charged.
Melvyn Paisley, a former top Navy official who became a high-paid consultant after quitting his Pentagon job last year, has emerged as a key target in the investigation.