Washington Eight Marine Corps officers have been charged with misconduct in connection with the alleged falsification of maintenance records on the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, officials said Friday.
Lt. Gen. Raymond Ayres Jr., commander of Marine Corps Forces Atlantic, notified the eight this week that he would hold an administrative hearing at which they may answer the charges against them.
The accused, whose names, ranks and positions were not released, can refuse to accept the proceeding and instead request a court martial at which they could formally contest the charges. Ayres gave them until Aug. 17 to decide. He said their names would not be released until then.
The case has gained wide attention because the Osprey program regarded as a key to the future of Marine Corps aviation was in serious trouble even before the allegations arose in January. Two Osprey crashes last year killed 23 Marines and stirred speculation that the program might be killed.
The Osprey is designed to take off like a helicopter, rotate its propellers to a horizontal position and cruise like an airplane.
Maj. Bryan Salas, a spokesman at Marine Corps Forces Atlantic, based in Norfolk, Va., declined to say whether the eight accused include Lt. Col. Odin Fred Leberman, who was commander of the Osprey squadron at New River, N.C., where the alleged records falsifications took place.
The Defense Department inspector general concluded in June that Leberman falsified maintenance documents between Dec. 20, 2000, and Jan. 11, 2001, to exaggerate the aircraft's performance record and that he felt pressured by superiors to exaggerate the Osprey's operational readiness.
Leberman was relieved of his command the day the allegations became public in January.
The inspector general also found no evidence that any officer senior to Leberman ordered or suggested that records be falsified, although it said a small number of Marine officers within Leberman's squadron knew of the falsification and took no action to report it. These individuals were not named.
The Marine Corps and the inspector general both said the falsified records played no part in either Osprey crash last year.
Besides ordering administrative hearings for the eight officers, Ayres issued a nonpunitive "letter of caution" to one additional officer who had not previously been implicated by the inspector general, Salas said. He did not identify the recipient of the letter.
The charges cited by Ayres against the eight officers:
Violation of a lawful standing general order.
Dereliction of duty.
Making a false official statement.
Conduct unbecoming an officer.
Salas said none of the eight officers was charged with all four violations, although some were charged with more than one.
He would not be more specific about which officers were charged with which violations.