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Lehman Defends Way He Ran Navy

Associated Press

Former Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. said Friday that the Navy should use fewer consultants, but he defended his tenure against criticism arising from the current Pentagon bribery investigation.

“The changes that we made in the Navy procurement system were deep and fundamental,” Lehman told the House Armed Services Committee. “I do not believe that any of the changes that we made could by their nature increase the incidence of improper behavior.”

Led Naval Buildup

Lehman resigned last year after leading the naval buildup that was a key part of President Reagan’s defense program.

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But the Navy is now the center of an investigation by federal prosecutors, who are looking at allegations of payoffs and bribes from consultants, many of whom were former Pentagon employees.

The consultants were seeking information from Pentagon officials about details of contracts, information that could make the difference in winning multimillion-dollar contracts. No charges have been filed.

A key figure of the investigation is Melvyn R. Paisley, the former assistant Navy secretary for research and engineering and a close associate of Lehman during their Navy tenure. Paisley resigned and became a consultant shortly after Lehman quit to take a Wall Street job in April, 1987.

Lehman’s testimony to the committee was his first major public comment since the investigation became public three months ago.

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He refused to talk about details of the investigation, and committee members did not ask him for specifics because they did not want to influence the probe.

Lehman noted that the Navy has more consultants than the other services, mainly because it has fewer officers. Consultants do work for the Navy that, in the Air Force and Army, is performed by military officers, he said.

Tried to Cut Consultants

But “I was never comfortable with the dependence on consultants,” Lehman said, detailing what he said were generally unsuccessful efforts to reduce the number of consultants.

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Two reforms suggested in the wake of the investigation are requiring consultants to register and requiring them to disclose all of their contracts to prevent conflicts of interest. Lehman endorsed those changes.


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