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Military Thwarted Him, Ex-Pentagon Purchasing Czar Testifies

September 23, 1987|KAREN TUMULTY | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Richard P. Godwin, who resigned in frustration only a year after taking charge of the Pentagon's scandal-plagued procurement operations, told lawmakers Tuesday that he had felt like "a man who has the steering wheel in his hand but nothing hooked to the rudder."

Godwin's resignation last week has brought new calls in Congress for tougher laws and tighter restrictions on military purchasing practices. Critics have blamed the former Bechtel executive's problems on naivete and clumsiness in dealing with a huge bureaucracy, but he clearly has won sympathy on Capitol Hill.

"I personally have been very impressed with your performance," Rep. Nicholas Mavroules (D-Mass.) told Godwin. "Something is seriously wrong here."

Godwin, testifying before separate sessions of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, complained that an entrenched military bureaucracy had thwarted him in many ways, ranging from ignoring his requests for information to writing directives that eroded his authority.

When he asked the services for so-called base-line plans outlining costs and expected results for major new weapons, for example, "I didn't get any plans back," he said.

And, when the Air Force sent him status reports on various weapons systems it was developing, those reports gave no clue to major problems confronting the B-1 bomber or the MX missile, he said.

"You were being sandbagged. You were being given a lot of gobbledygook in the form of data," House Armed Services Committee staff member Anthony R. Battista told Godwin.

Godwin denied reports that Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger had not supported his efforts. But, when asked by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.) to rate the secretary on a scale of 1 to 10, Godwin replied: "10 in terms of intent . . . 5 in terms of results."

Godwin was harsher on Deputy Secretary William H. Taft IV, who had written directives allowing acquisition programs to be changed without approval from Godwin's office: "Intent at 5, results at 0."

Godwin's official title was undersecretary of defense for acquisitions, but his mandate was to act as procurement "czar," implementing purchasing reforms suggested by a presidentially appointed commission in the wake of disclosures that the military had paid vastly inflated prices for such simple items as toilet seats and hammers.

Aspin noted that lawmakers, sensitive to charges that they were trying to "micromanage" the Pentagon, had written a "purposely minimal piece of legislation overhauling procurement policies, getting the roadblocks out of the way so the Pentagon and the White House could implement the reform."

But, with Godwin's resignation, Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-Greenbrae) said that "the signal I get is it's back in our court in Congress."

Rep. Dan Daniel (D-Va.), complaining of "turf sharks" and "a high level of arrogance" at the Pentagon, vowed that "I have voted for my last increase in the defense budget, absent an emergency," until "some sense of reason" is instilled at the Pentagon.

Godwin said he generally had found Pentagon officials to be 95% supportive of his efforts. "Everyone who was in the system had a 5% problem, and that was in the part that impinged upon what they were doing," he said. "Everybody agreed that these changes were desirable . . . so long as we didn't make any change."

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