Washington Watchdog Calls Tanker Deal "Budget Buster"
Watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) this
week has rare praise for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, after
he said USAF negotiations on leasing Boeing 767 aircraft as
refueling tankers appeared to have involved wrongdoing, though he
did not single out a possible culprit. The secretary has called for
a 90-day suspension of the lease, along with several investigations
of the $17 billion deal.
"The tanker lease is expensive, unnecessary, budget-busting,
scandalous, and the worst example of corporate welfare and backroom
deal-making in recent memory. A taxpayer rip-off of this magnitude
calls for intervention from the highest levels of authority," CAGW
President Tom Schatz said. "Secretary Rumsfeld is faithfully
serving his duty to root out waste, fraud, and abuse at the
A lobbying campaign involving senior
Boeing officials, Air Force officers, interested lawmakers and
military retirees led to the deal's inclusion in the 2002 Defense
Appropriations bill. The plan immediately attracted criticism from
Pentagon offices, White House budget officials and outside experts,
who pointed out that upgrading existing tankers or buying the
planes outright would save billions of dollars. Darlene Druyun, the
senior Air Force official who negotiated the deal with Boeing was
subsequently hired, then fired by the company after it discovered
emails indicating a conflict of interest.
Secretary Rumsfeld has ordered the Defense Science Board to
evaluate the requirements needed to re-capitalize the tanker fleet.
The DSB will identify issues, including corrosion, service life,
and cost to maintain the current fleet, refurbish aircraft, modify
aircraft, buy new aircraft, and reduce demand for new aircraft by
re-engining. The secretary also said the Pentagon's in-house
watchdog, Joseph Schmitz, was "working in an orderly and systematic
way to try to come to the truth as to what took place in the
matter." Schmitz will review the employment discussions regarding
Darlene Druyun for any improprieties, including whether any other
companies were involved in such discussions and whether they
affected any decisions regarding the tanker lease.
Citizens Against Government Waste
spearheaded the effort against the Boeing deal after it was
surreptitiously approved by the Pentagon's acquisition chief during
his last few hours on the job. More than 7,500 CCAGW members have
signed a Citizens Declaration against the lease deal, while another
3,500 have generated faxes in opposition to House Speaker Dennis
Hastert's (R-IL) support of the deal. CCAGW has also praised the
efforts of Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ)
for his role as the voice of fiscal responsibility in attempting to
stop this boondoggle. CAGW named Boeing its "Corporate Turkey of
the Year" in recognition of the lease deal and a host of other
scandals perpetuated by the company in 2003.
"Along with his efforts to streamline and modernize the U.S.
military, Secretary Rumsfeld is trying to protect the integrity of
the procurement system and the best interests of taxpayers," Schatz