A new Defense Department investigation of the Boeing aerial-refueling tanker scandal has found that several top Pentagon officials failed...

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WASHINGTON — A new Defense Department investigation of the Boeing aerial-refueling tanker scandal has found that several top Pentagon officials failed to properly award and oversee a contract worth more than $23 billion, government officials said yesterday.

The Air Force’s decision to lease 100 Boeing 767 tanker aircraft already has cost two top Boeing officers their jobs and a former Air Force contracting official time in prison.

The new Defense Department inspector general’s “accountability report” aimed its most serious criticism at former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions Edward “Pete” Aldridge and his replacement, Michael Wynne, now an acting under secretary, said one government official who read the report and a second who was briefed on it.

The government officials and others familiar with the report spoke on condition of anonymity because it hasn’t been released.

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A Defense Department spokesman, Col. Gary Keck, confirmed the existence of the report and said Inspector General Joseph Schmitz would make it public within about 10 days.

The report contains less-serious criticism of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper, according to the government officials.

One of the government officials said the report revealed Marvin Sambur, a former Air Force acquisitions expert, told investigators Aldridge had instructed him not to apply the normal Defense Department directives for oversight of the multibillion-dollar deal.

The official added that the day before Aldridge left his Pentagon job and returned to the defense industry in 2003, he signed a decision memorandum approving the deal without the required review by one of two Pentagon acquisition panels.

Aldridge now serves on the board of directors of Lockheed Martin. Attempts to reach him through the company yesterday for comment weren’t successful. Wynne and Jumper didn’t immediately respond to calls.

Boeing spokesman Doug Kennett said the company had no comment on a report it hadn’t seen.

Senators on the Armed Services Committee asked for the Pentagon internal investigation. Their request followed revelations by Darleen Druyun, a former Air Force acquisitions supervisor who pleaded guilty to federal charges in October and is serving nine months in prison.

Druyun admitted she’d compromised at least nine Air Force projects, including the Boeing deal to lease the Boeing 767 tankers at prices higher than simply buying them outright.

While negotiating the tanker deal, Druyun was simultaneously bargaining for a high-paying Boeing job upon her retirement from the Pentagon.