Grumman Billed Navy $696,496 Instead of $67,280 for Jet Parts

Times Staff Writer

Grumman Corp. in 1983 billed the Navy $696,496 for aircraft electronic modification kits that were supposed to cost $67,280, according to documents obtained by The Times.

The kits were delivered in July, 1983, to Miramar Naval Air Station, yet neither Grumman nor Navy spokesmen could say Friday how much actually was paid for the 16 kits, intended to improve the fire control radar systems of Grumman-built F-14 Tomcat fighters.

Spare parts purchases by the Navy, particularly at Miramar, have been under scrutiny since it was revealed last month that naval officials had paid more than $600 each for replacement ashtrays in E-2C Hawkeye radar planes.

Michael Drake, a Grumman spokesman, attributed the kit overbilling snafu to a clerical error, saying that Grumman never intended to deceive the Naval Air Systems Command in Washington, which had contracted with the Long Island, N.Y.-based company to buy the kits for $4,205 each.


Documents show that the Navy eventually was billed $43,531 per kit.

“What I believe happened is that a clerk typed the wrong unit price on a shipping document,” Drake said in a telephone interview. “That document had no relation whatsoever to the contract price that the Navy agreed to pay . . . and I can’t believe the Navy would ever make a payment without looking at the contract.”

Drake, however, declined to search company records to find out how much the Navy actually paid for the kits.

“That’s a question for the Navy,” Drake said. “We’re talking about a lot of man hours to try and find it, and I don’t think it’s justified.”


A Navy spokesman in Washington, Lt. Peter Johnstone, said that naval officials would search their files. Johnstone declined additional comment.

Rep. Jim Bates (D-San Diego), who in recent weeks has leveled a barrage of overspending accusations against Miramar and the Navy’s procurement process, said Friday that present and former employees of the air station have told him that an additional 30 of the overpriced modification kits also were delivered to Miramar.

Bates discounted Grumman’s explanation that the price indicated on the shipping form was not the one paid by the Navy.

“It appears to me that there have been too many mistakes too numerous to mention, and it looks to me like that the much higher figure is what they (Grumman) charged based on a copy of the shipping order that I obtained,” Bates said. “I don’t accept the explanation that every one of these instances was a mistake.”


Bates is scheduled to tour Miramar today with Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Responding chiefly to assertions raised by Bates, the Pentagon in May relieved Miramar’s commander and supply officer as well as a rear admiral after it was discovered that officials at the base had paid Grumman about $630 each for two aircraft ashtrays, $800 for two wrench sockets and $2,410 for an F-14 ground lock.

Last week, seeking to avoid “further controversy,” Grumman announced that it would credit the Navy nearly $100,000 for ashtrays, sockets and ground locks delivered over the last 15 years.

On Friday, Grumman spokesman Drake criticized Bates’ handling of the Grumman controversy.


“Congressman Bates has never communicated directly with us,” Drake said. “The only thing we ever hear is when a newspaper reporter calls.

If the congressman or anyone else has any specific charges, then let them make those charges to the proper authorities.”

Bates said he has forwarded all of his information to investigative committees in Congress.