Pentagon IG details 'multiple forms of misconduct' by AFRICOM general

Friday - 8/17/2012, 4:01pm EDT

The former commander of U.S. Africa Command engaged in "multiple forms of misconduct" related to his use of government aircraft, misused and wasted government funds on parties and gifts and abused his authority during his four-year tenure as the command's first leader, a Defense Department Inspector General's report alleges.

The report, provided to Federal News Radio in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, sheds new light on allegations against Gen. William "Kip" Ward that were first reported by the Associated Press earlier this week.

Although the Army held a retirement ceremony for Ward last year, he has been temporarily serving as a two-star general in a Pentagon staff job while the Army decides whether to pursue disciplinary action against him.

The IG recommends Army Secretary John McHugh consider "appropriate action" against Ward, and that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta take steps to train combatant commands on the appropriate use of military aircraft and other ethics matters.

On the matter of travel, the inspector general found several instances in which Ward travelled at government expense for personal matters and conducted little government business at his destination. Seven times he extended his stay on what were claimed as official trips without spending much time on official business.

In one case, the IG found the main purpose of a government-funded, three-day, two-night trip to New York City in July 2010 was to socialize and see a Broadway show. Investigators also determined he accepted free tickets to that performance from a defense contractor, a "prohibited source" under federal laws.

In another example, Ward hastily arranged a meeting with the commander of Army Forces Command in Atlanta after being told he could not use military aircraft for unofficial travel to attend an awards ceremony. The 90-minute meeting was intended to turn the previously-planned trip into "official" travel, the report suggests.

The Atlanta visit was part of an 11-day, $129,000 U.S. trip that also included travel to the D.C. area for Ward, his wife Joyce and 13 aides. Ward conducted official business on only three of those 11 days, but Ward never took any leave and billed the government for reimbursement for each day of the trip.

In other cases, he wasted travel funds including during a stopover in Bermuda where he stayed in a $740 a night hotel suite — twice the allowable rate, the report found.

While Ward's wife frequently travelled with him, the couple never reimbursed the government for the cost of airfare, a requirement under DoD regulations unless both of them were travelling in an official capacity for an "unquestionably official" function.

In many cases, they were not, the report found. Investigators determined Ward's practice was to "identify reasons to allow Mrs. Ward to accompany him…and Mrs. Ward directed the [redacted] to 'make programs' to enable this practice."

One unidentified witness told investigators that planning such trips was "an ethics nightmare…[we had to] swim the waters and know the code. Nothing's kept me awake in the past 20 years except this."

Nonetheless, on at least 15 flights, Mrs. Ward was travelling in an "unofficial" capacity. The general also misused military aircraft to provide free transportation to other generals and members of the media without proper authorization, the report found.

The IG also found Ward abused his authority by having military staff perform personal errands for him and his wife Joyce using government vehicles.

Of one AFRICOM staffer, a witness said "everyone knew he was Joyce's driver," who transported her to spas, department stores and fundraisers. Military personnel also were used for such things as dropping off personal real estate documents, shopping, delivering flowers and picking up candy.

One AFRICOM member spent 222 straight days in the United States supporting the Wards, far away from the command's Europe headquarters. For the majority of that period, he was serving as Mrs. Ward's driver, witnesses said.

The command spent $16,000 for lodging for the staffer at the Ritz-Carlton in McLean, Va., from Jan. 5 through Feb. 23 in 2010, although General Ward himself was only in the area for 18 of those 49 nights, the report said.

The inspector general concluded Ward also wasted government funds on official AFRICOM events. Annual one-day holiday parties at the command's Stuttgart, Germany, headquarters cost at least $34,000 each. Ward brought in a U.S.-based aide to act as an event planner for one of the parties at a cost of nearly $6,000, not including airfare.