Holding the Government Accountable

New Emails Refuel the Air Force Tanker Scandal

It just keeps getting worse.

At first, it seemed like a plan by the Air Force to lease 100 Boeing 767 tankers was nothing more than a $23 billion bad deal for the taxpayers. Then we discovered its roots were conceived in a conspiracy to give the Air Force�s former No. 2 acquisition official, Darleen Druyun, a cushy job with Boeing after retiring from government service. Druyun said in court papers that the Boeing tanker deal was a �parting gift� in return for the job offer.

In April, Druyun pleaded guilty to a felony, and last month so did former Boeing chief financial officer Michael Sears.

But the plot got thicker just after the Sears plea with the resignations of Air Force Secretary James Roche and Air Force acquisitions chief, Marvin Sambur, only a few days before Senator John McCain made public a series of Air Force internal emails that offered a disturbing glimpse into the soul of the Pentagon�s weapons acquisitions system.

For example, in May 2003 Robin Cleveland, a senior official with the Office of Management and Budget, sent an email to Roche asking for �anything you can do to help� get her brother hired at defense contractor Northrop Grumman, Roche�s former employer. OMB had originally vigorously opposed the tanker lease deal, but later softened its opposition. Roche passed on Cleveland�s email recommending Cleveland�s brother to a senior attorney at Grumman�s Los Angeles office. Roche then emailed Cleveland, �Be well. Smile. Give tankers now (Oops, did I say that?...).� A week later, after the brother got a job interview with Northrop, Cleveland told him in an email: �Hope it works before the tanker leasing issue get[s] fouled up."

The new emails lend credence to the cynical view that defense contractors, Congress, and the Pentagon are sleeping in the same bed. The question remains: Who�s the next to get kicked out of the sack.

Stay tuned.