San Diego Union-Triubune


03-Mar-2001 Saturday

Osprey investigators seize computers of two Marine generals 

Otto Kreisher 

WASHINGTON -- A Pentagon investigation into the alleged cover-up of maintenance problems with the MV-22 Osprey has reached the Marine Corps' two most senior aviation program officers, deepening the controversy surrounding the troubled tilt-rotor aircraft.

The Pentagon's inspector general's office has seized the office computers of Lt. Gen. Frederick McCorkle, the assistant commandant for aviation, and his top deputy, Brig. Gen. James Amos, a Marine spokesman said yesterday.

Asked about the investigation, Marine 1st Lt. David Nevers said: "We asked for the DOD (Department of Defense) IG's investigation and we fully anticipated that the investigation was going to be a thorough review of all files, computer generated or not. We have provided full support to the DOD
IG, providing any and all records requested."

A spokeswoman for the inspector general said his office "never comments on ongoing investigations."

The investigation stems from the allegation by an enlisted maintenance technician that the commanding officer of the Osprey training squadron, Lt. Col. Odin F. Lieberman, told his men they had to lie about the MV-22's poor mechanical condition to protect the program.

Lieberman reportedly acknowledged to his superiors that he made some of the comments attributed to him, but said in a statement that the investigation would show he took no improper action.

Lieberman's alleged instructions to falsify the data on daily aircraft readiness came as a critical decision neared on whether the program was ready to go into full production. Low readiness figures were considered a hindrance to getting approval for the tilt-rotor troop carrier to become operational.

The decision, however, was postponed after an aircraft in Lieberman's squadron crashed on a training flight near the New River, N.C., Marine Corps Air Station in December, killing four Marines.

In the past year, two crashes have claimed the lives of 23 Marines, including 15 from San Diego County bases killed April 8 near Tucson.

The Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Jones, asked the Pentagon inspector general to take the investigation over from the Marines after indications that Lieberman's alleged instructions may have been the result of pressure from his superiors.

The Washington Post, which reported yesterday on the seizure of the computer hard drives, said the investigators were seeking e-mail traffic from McCorkle and Amos to Lieberman to determine if they were involved in or knew of the attempt to falsify the Osprey maintenance records.

The newspaper also said the investigators were looking at the actions of Maj. Gen. Dennis Krupp, commander of the Marine air wing that includes Lieberman's squadron.

Amos' role in the maintenance controversy was called into question earlier when he gave generally favorable readiness numbers to Pentagon reporters days after sending an e-mail to McCorkle expressing concern about much lower figures. The contrasting numbers came from different reporting systems.

Nevers emphasized that Jones asked for the independent investigation because "he wanted to ensure that the allegations of command influence will be thoroughly investigated."

The fact that the probe has gone up the chain of command "does not suggest that the investigation is going to conclude that undue command influence came from the senior levels of the Marine Corps," Nevers said.

Asked if Jones still had confidence in McCorkle and Amos, he said: "Absolutely. There is no reason to suggest the commandant wouldn't have full confidence in General McCorkle and General Amos. . . . The mere fact of the investigation doesn't indict anyone."