Druyun scandal may lead to more vacancies at the Pentagon

Air Force acquisition chief says "there are many people now lining up to leave."

The Defense Department's largest procurement scandal in decades likely will lead to more high-level departures at the Pentagon, according to a senior Air Force official.

"There are many people now lining up to leave," Marvin Sambur, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, told the Defense Writers Group in Washington on Wednesday.

Sambur and Air Force Secretary James Roche already are slated to leave their posts later this month--the highest-level casualties to date following revelations last year that former Air Force executive Darleen Druyun illegally favored Boeing in contract negotiations, in exchange for jobs for herself and members of her family.

Sambur said that Michael Wynne, acting undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, and Gen. Gregory Martin, Air Force Materiel Command chief, were likely to leave as well. Neither has announced plans, although Wynne's nomination to become the permanent undersecretary died in the last Congress and is not being resubmitted.

"There's no way out of this until everybody leaves here and you start from scratch," Sambur adds.

Druyun is serving nine months in federal prison in Florida for violating conflict of interest laws. The Defense Contract Management Agency is now reviewing dozens of contracts she oversaw for nearly a decade for any signs of favoritism.

Sambur also confirmed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had expanded the contract review to include those involving former Boeing Chief Financial Officer Michael Sears, who has admitted to illegally negotiating the job with Druyun and could be sentenced up to six months in jail next month. Sambur said that review could include some high-profile weapons contracts, among them the Army's Future Combat System and the Navy's F-18 fighter plane.

The Air Force acquisition community has come under sharp criticism, particularly from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for lax oversight and a controversial deal that Druyun first negotiated to lease tanker refueling aircraft from Boeing. McCain has put many Air Force general officer promotions on hold and blocked Roche's bid to become Army secretary due to concerns about Druyun and the now-stalled tanker deal.

Sambur said there will be a "leadership vacuum" in the Air Force until new appointees are confirmed and promotions are allowed to go forward. He asked rhetorically about who would want to take the jobs in light of the criticism that the service has faced from Congress in recent months.

The White House has yet to nominate a new Air Force secretary or a replacement for Sambur. In the meantime, Air Force Undersecretary Peter Teets, who also heads the National Reconnaissance Office, will serve as acting Air Force secretary. Lt. Gen. John Corley, currently Sambur's deputy, will take over day-to-day acquisition management duties.