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The wild blue wonder



Published: Fri, April 1, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Scripps Howard News Service: If this weren't so serious, it would be funny.

The Pentagon has assumed authority over 21 Air Force acquisition programs worth about $200 billion, including purchases of C-17 Globemasters and C-130J Hercules. That's ceding a lot of authority and it's supposed to last for at least six months.

The reason: It seems there's no one home over at the Air Force.

The secretary of the Air Force, James Roche, and his top acquisitions official resigned three months ago and haven't been replaced. The undersecretary, who became acting secretary, retired last week. And the remaining senior civilian in the Air Force has no experience with acquisitions.

The civilian offices seem to be snake-bit. The previous top civilian procurement official, Darleen Druyun, was sentenced to nine months in prison last year on conflict of interest charges for illegally favoring Boeing. And other civilian leaders have been caught up in an acrimonious battle with certain members of Congress over a plan to lease, rather than buy, Boeing tankers.

The White House has been mum about why it hasn't filled the posts, and in a lame duck administration these may be hard jobs to fill -- the hassle of confirmation, the internecine warfare endemic to the Pentagon, tangling with Congress -- but even so, given the sprawling size of our military-industrial complex, surely there is somebody out there who could do the job and do it well.




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