A $30 billion Air Force scheme to prop up Boeing by converting passenger planes into military refueling tankers and then leasing them from the domestic aeronautics giant has already sent two individuals to prison. Today a report will be released by the Pentagon comptroller’s office tieing the deal to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and the White House.
After interviewing 88 people and reading hundreds of thousands of pages of e-mails, the inspector general’s office concluded that four top Air Force officials and one of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s former top aides, Undersecretary of Defense Edward C. “Pete” Aldridge, violated Pentagon and government-wide procurement rules, failed to use “best business practices,” ignored a legal requirement for weapons testing and failed to ensure that the tankers would meet the military’s requirements.
The report also connects Rumsfeld to policymaking on the lease, recounting a statement by former Air Force secretary James G. Roche that Rumsfeld had called him in Newport, R.I., in July 2003 to say “he did not want me to budge on the tanker lease proposal,” despite criticism.
In the copy of the report obtained by The Washington Post, 45 sections were deleted by the White House counsel’s office to obscure what several sources described as references to White House involvement in the lease negotiations and its interaction with Boeing. The Pentagon separately blacked out 64 names and many e-mails. It also omitted the names of members of Congress, including some who pressured the Pentagon to back the deal.
Despite the ethusiastic redaction by the White House counsel’s office, we know the name of at least one of the conspirators.
Boeing executives later pressed subcontractors to call the White House, and met with Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, who backed the deal.