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DoD details 4-star's lavish spending

Aug. 17, 2012 - 02:37PM   |   Last Updated: Aug. 17, 2012 - 02:37PM  |  
Gen. William "Kip" Ward, who headed U.S. Africa Command, used military vehicles to shuttle his wife shopping and to spas, and billed the government for a refueling stop overnight in Bermuda, where the couple stayed in a $750 suite, a Defense Department investigation has found.
Gen. William "Kip" Ward, who headed U.S. Africa Command, used military vehicles to shuttle his wife shopping and to spas, and billed the government for a refueling stop overnight in Bermuda, where the couple stayed in a $750 suite, a Defense Department investigation has found. ()
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A four-star Army general who was the first head of the new U.S. Africa Command allegedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars improperly on lavish travel, hotels and other items for himself and his wife, according to a Defense Department report.

Gen. William "Kip" Ward and his wife allegedly misused government resources for personal purposes, taking trips on military aircraft and using staff members to run personal errands.

The report says he used military vehicles to shuttle his wife shopping and to spas, and billed the government for a refueling stop overnight in Bermuda, where the couple stayed in a $750 suite.

In January 2011, Ward allegedly took an 11-day trip to Washington and Atlanta with an entourage of 13 military and civilian personnel which cost $129,000, and he conducted less than three days of official business, the report states.

During the trip, Ward visited wounded warriors one day, spent 90 minutes at Forces Command on another day and attended a meeting at the State Department a third day, the report states. He told investigators he met with members of Congress during the trip, but they found no evidence to support the claim.

The 99-page investigative report released by the Department of Defense Inspector General's Office on Aug. 17, under a Freedom of Information Act request, concludes Ward, "engaged in multiple forms of misconduct related to official and unofficial travel."

One incident involved Joyce Ward asking a staff member to go buy her a bag of "dark chocolate Snickers" bars, saying the general would provide "a couple of dollars" for it.

Ward's responses to the allegations are contained in the report. He denies committing any impropriety and accused his accusers of "character assassination." He defended the Bermuda layover as a "crew stop" and blamed his staff for making the decision to stay there rather than flying on to Stuttgart, Germany-based Africa Command.

The report describes how Ward spent several hundred thousand dollars allowing unauthorized people, including family members, to fly on government planes, and spent excessive amounts of money on hotel rooms, transportation and other expenses when he traveled as head of Africa Command.

"He misused his position and his subordinates' time, Government funds, and rental vehicles," the report states. "He failed to use a [government travel charge card] as required and received reimbursement for travel expenses that exceeded the per diem rates without actual expense allowance approvals. Finally, he improperly accepted gifts from a prohibited source."

In one case, his request to use military aircraft for a personal trip was denied, so he abruptly changed the trip to an official one, adding a quick meeting, and went anyway.

In numerous other cases, he and his wife used staff and government-rented cars to run errands, pick up flowers, books, snacks and event tickets.

Ward faces possible demotion following a 17-month investigation, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to make a final decision on the matter before the end of the month, The Associated Press reported, citing several unnamed defense officials.

The report recommends the Army secretary, John McHugh, take "appropriate action," and conduct an analysis of whether Ward should reimburse the government for his travel expenses.

Further, it recommends the defense secretary issue guidance to combatant commanders regarding military travel and reassess the size of security details assigned to "high-risk personnel."

Spouse travel

Emails between the travel and legal offices show AFRICOM staff worked, "diligently" to find reasons for Ward's wife's travel, the report states. She took 52 of 79 trips with him, each time on MilAir.

In 15 instances, Ward's wife took the trips for unofficial purposes, accompanying him to functions and speaking engagements in New York, San Diego, Atlanta, New Orleans, Philadelphia and West Point, N.Y.

Ward's wife on several occasions had military staff perform personal tasks for her. She asked an unnamed person or people via email to purchase flowers, candy, baby items, books and — in one instance — dark chocolate Snickers.

Staff members used government-funded rental vehicles to run errands, accompany her to a spa, a department store, a private fundraiser and an education conference.

Through an Army spokesman, Ward and his wife Joyce declined to comment Aug. 17. However, he wrote an April 23 letter rebutting the Inspector General's findings which the report cites in part. In it, he refutes claims his trips were planned and extended for personal reasons, and said his wife traveled MilAir because her participation at events was, "of diplomatic and public relations benefit to the United States."

"The statement that my wife sat someone down and said to make provisions to take her on every trip is an obvious misrepresentation and character assassination," his letter states. "The portrayal in these allegations that we were ‘hunting' for reasons for my wife to travel is so misleading as to be false."

In the case of the 11-day trip in January, Ward said the main purpose of a three-day stopover in Atlanta was to visit Forces Command; and he argued his attendance at that year's Trumpet Awards was official because he was an honoree.

The DoDIG's report notes that Ward's visit with FORSCOM was planned only after he accepted the invitation to the Trumpet Awards, and that he was an honored guest, but not an honoree.

The report alleges the couple was in Atlanta to visit their infant grandchild. On the day of the visit, Ward's wife asked a staff member to search for baby formula.

5 vehicles at a time

In May 2010, Ward took a business trip from Burkina Faso to Kansas City, by way of Bermuda, where he stayed for one night in the Fairmont Hamilton Princess Hotel at a cost of $747, twice the allowed rate. In Kansas City, where he was visiting the Combined Arms Center, he and his wife shared a suite that cost $693, also twice the allowed rate.

Ward testified the stop in Bermuda was "[j]ust a crew stop, overnight stop," the report states. He said he relied on his staff to plan the trip.

The lodging costs for the trip exceeded $10,700, in addition to the cost of meals, local transportation and incidentals for his party of 12 staff and the aircrew.

The report found that Ward commonly used MilAir for personal travel without permission, and extended the length of official trips seven times without official business to conduct, and that in these cases, he did not take leave as required.

Of Ward's temporary duty assignments, he spent the most time in the Washington, D.C., area: 222 days in one 12-month period. While in the U.S., he and his entourage rented up to five vehicles at a time and required a dozen hotel rooms.

In one instance, Ward chose to stay at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City a day before his business in Birmingham, Ala., was to begin, even though a hotel in Birmingham would have been cheaper.

During four trips to Atlanta, Ward stated his intention was to meet with the commander of Forces Command, but — according to the report — he never did.

Improper gifts

In June 2010, Ward obtained travel orders for his wife to accompany him on a six-day trip from Baltimore to New Orleans and New York, where he had several speaking engagements, and back to Stuttgart.

In New York, the Wards attended a Broadway show paid for by a government contractor, and afterward posed for pictures with the show's star, actor Denzel Washington.

The contractor, whose name was redacted, was a "prohibited source," according to the report, and had contracts associated with the construction of military medical facilities in Virginia, Kansas and Texas.

The report also found he extended his trip by one day to attend the show and did not take leave.

An unnamed "prohibited source" also paid for two dinner parties at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse in Tysons Corner, Va., for Ward and his family, the report states.

According to the report, Ward and his immediate family were prohibited from accepting gifts of more than $20 from defense contractors.

Ward not only improperly received gifts, he allegedly misused funds to give gifts at the government's expense.

In 2011, his command ordered 100 engraved letter openers at a cost of $24 each as gifts at his farewell dinner, and it spent nearly $10,000 on command coins in 2010.

Commanders are allowed to use government money from specific accounts to buy coins, but along with those coins come restrictions and guidelines regarding who can be given those coins. Commanders will often use their own money to buy coins, which allows them to hand out the coins more freely.

In his testimony to investigators, Ward said he did not recall ever using his own money to buy coins.

Each of the command's Christmas parties in 2010 and 2009 cost $34,000, and Ward authorized commemorative booklets to be given as gifts at each, totaling nearly $20,000.

‘A lot of gray area'

Every commanding general travels extensively to meet and connect with his troops, said a senior Army official who spoke on background to Army Times.

But they also receive numerous invitations and requests from inside and outside the military to speak or appear at various events, and many of these invites also extend to the general's spouse, he said.

Typically, the general's staff, particularly his legal and public affairs teams, will analyze each request, said the Army official, who is not familiar with the investigation into Ward but has worked at several headquarters and at the four-star command level.

"What happens is normally the lawyers give him an opinion, and [the public affairs officer] will look at it, too," he said. "Many times, what happens is, they'll look at an itinerary and [determine] should the general even travel there? Can his wife travel with him? Then we look at, is she allowed to fly [on military air] or would she have to pay her own way? A lot of times, there has to be an agenda for the wife, and in those cases, their travel will be paid for. A headquarters will look at it and advise the general, but at the end of the day, the general can do what he wants."

In some cases, the group that invites the general for an event will offer to cover travel expenses, the official said.

"We'll look at it to make sure it's legal," he said. "In general terms, we always do an analysis. What is the mission? What is ancillary? Is it feasible? Is it legal? How will it be perceived? None of it is black and white. There's a lot of gray area."

Facing demotion

Panetta can demote Ward and force him to retire at a lower rank. Because Ward's alleged offenses occurred while he was a four-star general, he could be forced to retire as a three-star, which officials said could cost him as much as $1 million in retirement pay over time. It was not immediately clear whether Ward also could face criminal charges.

For Ward to be demoted to two-star rank, investigators would have to conclude that he also had problems prior to moving to Africa Command, and officials said that does not appear to be the case.

In making his decision, Panetta has to certify to Congress that Ward served satisfactorily at the rank at which he is retired.

Effect on base pay

Ward stepped down early last year after serving as the first head of the Europe-based Africa Command, which was created in 2007, and he intended to retire. He did all the paperwork and was hosted at a retirement ceremony in April 2011 at Fort Myer, Va., but the Army halted his plans to leave because of the investigation.

Ever since then, he has been working in northern Virginia, serving as a special assistant to the vice chief of the Army.

For Ward, the investigation has gone on so long that he technically has been demoted from his four-star general rank to two-star general. Under military guidelines, if a full general is not serving in a four-star command or office for more than 60 days, he or she is automatically reduced to two-star rank.

Major general, or two-star, is the highest rank to which an officer can be promoted by regular military action. Becoming a three-star or a four-star general requires a presidential nomination and confirmation by Congress. It is not considered permanent, and lasts only as long as the person is serving in a job of that rank.

As a result, Ward's base pay went from more than $20,000 a month as a four-star to about $14,000 a month as a two-star general.

Gen. Carter Ham took over the command last year, gaining accolades as one of two key U.S. military leaders directing operations in the Libya conflict.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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