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General Dempsey Opposes Demotion in Fraud Case
Prior to my deployment, one of my duties was serving as the Brigade’s Organizational Defense Travel Authority (ODTA). In other words, I was responsible for ensuring the good stewardship of taxpayer money used to pay for any government-sponsored travel of Soldiers going to conferences, schools, or whatever. It’s not a job to take lightly and requires a meticulous working knowledge of rules and regulations.
In the first year, I saved the unit well over $15,000 by cutting out potentially fraudulent charges. I created a standard operating procedure and, once the Brigade Commander signed off on it, began enforcing that standard.
The ODTA has to be a strong leader because of the nature of the job. He/she has to be able to say no and not be intimidated into approving questionable travel claims. I have seen Soldiers lose rank and money over travel fraud. I’ve seen Soldiers put in confinement and booted from service as well. Many of these Soldiers hadn’t been in the military more than about six to ten years, but they knew what they were doing. Some claimed ignorance and had a good case for it. While enforcing the standards, we didn’t throw the book at Soldiers that made honest mistakes.
When you have a Soldier committing travel fraud that is an NCO or senior officer, there really is no excuse. By the time a Soldier reaches that level, he or she has traveled often and knows the rules. Or, at least, you expect them to.
This brings me to the story that recently broke of General William Ward, the former head of U.S. Africa Command. To be blunt, General Ward should have known better. We’re not talking about a $50 taxi claim here or a $12 baggage tip there.
The inspector general’s report found that Ward used military vehicles to shuttle his wife on shopping trips and to a spa and billed the government for a refueling stop overnight in Bermuda, where the couple stayed in a $750 suite, a Defense Department investigation found. It detailed lengthy stays at lavish hotels for Ward, his wife and his staff members, and the use of five-vehicle motorcades when he traveled to Washington.
It also said Ward and his wife, Joyce, accepted dinner and Broadway show tickets from a government contractor during a trip during which he went backstage to meet actor Denzel Washington. The couple and several staff members also spent two nights at the Waldorf Astoria hotel.
We’re talking anywhere between tens and thousands of dollars, according to estimates. According to the Joint Federal Travel Regulations (JFTR), “commercial lodging reimbursement is based on the single occupant rate, up to the TDY site or stopover location maximum.” For Bermuda, where General Ward stayed overnight, the top allowable rate is only $372 max. If there are special circumstances, the approving authority can authorize up to 300% of per diem. Special circumstances would include lack of adequate lodging due to something like a major sporting event (going TDY to London during the Olympics, for example) or conference.
Anyway, one would expect that a General Officer would know better about the use (and abuse) of taxpayer money is something that should be protected. We throw the book as lower ranking personnel when they abuse the travel system, so one would think that the punishment should be more serious for those that know better. Unfortunately, I can’t believe what I’m reading.
America’s top military officer is opposing the demotion of a four-star general who is accused of spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on lavish travel and other expenses in a case that has been sitting on Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s desk for weeks, U.S. officials said Thursday.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is among those who believe that Gen. William Ward, the former head of U.S. Africa Command, should be allowed to retire at his full four-star general rank, the officials said.
Wha-hut?! Again, we’re talking about GROSS negligence and an absolution of leadership here, not a fake claim for rental fuel or a lost hotel receipt.
This sets a terrible precedent. If this is approved, how can anyone in the Army punish any other Soldier for committing the same offenses at a much lower level? Leaders are supposed to SET the example, not be the exception. You can bet that had I done the same thing, I would be reduced to E1, forfeit all pay and allowances, and be discharged with a bad conduct discharge at a minimum! I would be lucky NOT to spend some time in confinement.
What is going on with our leadership in the Army? BG Jeffrey A. Sinclair may be able to retire in lieu of court martial after being accused of “wrongful sexual conduct, attempted violation of an order, wrongfully engaging in inappropriate relationships, misusing a government travel charge card, violating general orders by possessing alcohol and pornography while deployed, mistreating subordinates, filing fraudulent claims, engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and engaging in conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline.” I can tell you from experience that Soldiers in Afghanistan were getting reduced in rank and booted from service for similar conduct WHILE BG SINCLAIR was serving as Deputy Commanding General there and allegedly engaging in the same activity.
Now, contrast those two examples with the recent Brigade Commander that was convicted of fraud and bigamy recently. Col. James H. Johnson III was reduced to a LTC for committing offenses that were arguably inferior to those the general officers are accused of.
The system of military justice seems to be anything but justice when you compare these cases. Anyone want to wager a guess as to what will happen to U.S. Army Sergeant Christopher Weaver who pleaded guilty today to bribery charges for his role in the theft of fuel at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Fenty, near Jalalabad, Afghanistan? Weaver pleaded guilty to receiving payments from a representative of a military contractor that was responsible for transporting fuel in Afghanistan in exchange for facilitating the theft of approximately 100 fuel trucks. According to Weaver’s signed plea agreement, the loss to the United States as a result of the scheme was in excess of $1.5 million. According to court documents, Weaver sent cash back from Afghanistan to the United States, in part, by mailing the money inside a stuffed bear.