Navy Overcharged by Grumman; Error Cited

Times Staff Writer

Grumman Corp. in 1983 billed the Navy $696,496 for 16 aircraft modification kits that were supposed to cost $67,280, according to documents obtained by The Times.

The electronic kits were delivered in July, 1983, to Miramar Naval Air Station, yet neither Grumman nor Navy spokesmen could say Friday how much was actually paid for the 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 the focus of scrutiny since it was revealed last month that Navy officials had paid more than $600 each for replacement ashtrays in E-2C Hawkeye radar planes.

Michael Drake, a Grumman spokesman, attributed the kit overcharging 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.

Billed $43,531 Per Kit

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 verify how much the Navy actually paid for the kits.

A Navy spokesman in Washington said that Navy officials would search their files and declined additional comment.

More Overpriced Kits

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 base have told him that another 30 of the overpriced modification kits also were delivered to Miramar.

"It appears to me that there have been too many mistakes too numerous to mention and . . . 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."

Responding chiefly to assertions raised by Bates, the Pentagon in May relieved Miramar's commander, supply officer and 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 with nearly $100,000 for those items delivered over the last 15 years.

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