A six-month investigation into the Marine Corps' troubled V-22 Osprey squadron has confirmed that maintenance records for the tilt-rotor aircraft were deliberately falsified in an attempt to make a bad situation look better, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.
The investigation by the Pentagon's Inspector General was begun as a result of a secretly recorded audio tape on which Lt. Col. Fred Leberman could be heard telling members of his squadron why they had to lie.
"The reason we need to lie or manipulate the data, or however you want to call it, is that this program is in jeopardy," he said.
| The Paper Trail|
|Click here to read the anonymous letter outlining the charges of falsified reports on the Osprey, received by the Secretary of the Navy on Jan. 12.|
Click here to read a copy of the email sent from Brigadier General James Amos to Lt. General Fred McCorkle, Deputy Commandant of Marine aviation, discussing maintenance information that should be "close-held.".
The records were falsified after two Ospreys had crashed, killing 23 Marines and putting the entire program in danger of being cancelled.
The Pentagon found the deception played no role in two fatal crashes of the tilt-rotor aircraft last year.
One of the crashes was captured on videotape
from the cockpit of another Osprey.
According to the Inspector General, Leberman believed he was doing exactly what senior Marine Corps officers wanted, but the investigation found no evidence anybody had ordered him to falsify the records.
However, a number of officers below Leberman knew about it and did nothing to stop it.
An advance summary of the inspector general's findings, contained several major conclusions:Maintenance records and data on the Osprey fleet's operational readiness were falsified.
The falsification was done because Leberman perceived pressure from his superiors.
No evidence was found that any officer senior to Leberman directed or suggested that records be falsified.
The falsification occurred after the crashes and therefore "clearly was not a factor in either mishap." The Maries said from the start of the investigation that they believed the doctoring of records had no bearing on either of the crashes. The first, in April 2000 in Arizona, killed 19 Marines and was blamed on pilot error. The second, last December in North Carolina, killed four and was attributed to a combination of factors including a hydraulics failure.
The falsification at New River started on Dec. 20, 2000, and lasted until Jan. 11, 2001.
A small number of Marine officers at New River knew of the deception and took no action to correct or report it. The advance summary provided on Friday did not identify these officers or their positions. The inspector general's office conducted 700 interviews, including one with Leberman, and examined 3,000 maintenance documents during the course of its investigation. It also examined 38 computer hard drives, 125 network data tapes, numerous computer files and more than 219,000 e-mails.
Leberman was relieved of duty the day the allegations became public, but now the Marine Corps must decide what disciplinary action to take against him and the other officers who knew about the falsifying of records.
The Osprey is built by Boeing Co. and Bell Helicopter Textron. It is considered a linchpin of the Marine Corps' aviation future, meant to replace a fleet of aging Vietnam-era helicopters.
All Ospreys have been grounded since the December crash.
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