And a three-star general who oversees the U.S. Missile Defense Agency was described in an inspector general report as an abrasive and verbally abusive boss.
The investigations have become an embarrassment for the Army, raising questions about how thoroughly the military has screened senior leaders before putting them in crucial assignments.
The Defense Department’s inspector general reviewed 38 cases of alleged wrongdoing by senior officials in 2011, and substantiated the accusations in nearly 40 percent of the them, up from 21 percent in 2007. The total caseload this year is on track to exceed last year’s.
“It’s always concerning when senior leaders have issues, because we have very specific faith in senior leaders,” Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff, said in a recent interview. Odierno said all such cases are taken seriously, but argued that “we can’t allow a few to detract from the honorable service of many.”
The investigation into Gen. William E. Ward, the former chief of Africa Command, is being closely watched at the Pentagon, where rank-and-file officers wonder aloud whether senior leaders will be reticent to punish one of their own.
A June 26 report, compiled after investigators pored through a trove of e-mails and expense reports, portrays a general using taxpayer funds to support a high-rolling lifestyle.
The inspector general concluded that Ward used government funds to pay for personal travel expenses; assigned staff to run errands for him and his wife; and accepted meals and Broadway tickets from a defense contractor, in violation of Pentagon rules. The inspector general’s report says he wasted and misused tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars. For example, he billed the government $129,000 for an 11-day trip to Atlanta with a team of 13 people, even though he only conducted business during three of the days, the inspector general found.
On Feb. 14 he sent the following e-mail to an aide: “Might you be able to stop by a florist and pick up a small bouquet of spring flowers for me? Not extravagant at all — just a small not very expensive bouquet.” The aide offered to get it and asked where the general would like the flowers delivered. Ward responded: “Can you have in the limo pls — trunk. Tnx”
Ward rejected several of the accusations of wrongdoing in a written response to the inspector general’s findings, arguing, for instance, that many of the expenses in question were legitimate. The general declined a request for comment made through the Army’s public affairs office.