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Pentagon opens probe of comments by former rocket executive

WASHINGTON, March 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. Defense Department's inspector general's office on Tuesday said it has opened an investigation of comments made by a former United Launch Alliance executive who suggested the Pentagon improperly tipped a competition for rocket launches in his company's favor.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter last week referred the matter to the Pentagon's independent watchdog agency following strong statements by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain.

The investigation will examine the former executive's comments and "whether contracts to ULA were awarded in accordance with DoD and Federal regulations," the office said in a memorandum posted on its website.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Dan Grebler)