Gen. William E. Ward is seen during a 2010 ceremony at Caserma Ederle's Hoekstra Field, Vicenza, Italy. Ward is accused of spending tens of thousands of dollars on lavish travel and other expenses. (Rick Scavetta / Army)
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A senior U.S. official says Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has demoted the former head of U.S. Africa Command who was accused of spending thousands of dollars on lavish travel and other unauthorized expenses, The Associated Press reports.
The official says Panetta stripped Gen. William "Kip" Ward of a star, which means that he will now retire as a three-star lieutenant general despite some arguments against the demotion. Ward will also repay the government $82,000.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to discuss a personnel matter.
The demotion comes as retired Army Gen. David Petraeus resigned as CIA director because of an extramarital affair and Marine Gen. John Allen is being investigated for allegedly improper communications with a woman.
Ward, who was the first head of the new U.S. Africa Command, misused his position and his subordinates' time, government funds, and rental vehicles, according to a report by the Department of Defense Inspector General's Office, which was released in August.
Ward 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, according to the report. He also improperly accepted gifts from a prohibited source.
The report described how Ward allowed 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.
Ward allowed his wife to use military vehicles to shop and visit spas, and he billed the government for a refueling stop overnight in Bermuda, where the couple stayed in a $750 suite.
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.
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.
Amid the Defense Department investigation, Ward stepped down early last year with plans 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.
Since then, Ward had been working in northern Virginia, serving as a special assistant to the vice chief of the Army.
Gen. Carter Ham took over U.S. Africa Command last year and was one of two key U.S. military leaders directing operations in the Libya conflict.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Gen. Ham's status. He remains commander of U.S. Africa Command.