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Former 4-Star General AFRICOM Slammed for Flagrant, Lavish Spending (Or, “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”)


A former four-star general, William “Kip” Ward, who commanded the African Command from October 1, 2007 to March 8, 2011, is under investigation for allegations of lavish spending. Among the alleged offenses: Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to allow family members to travel on government aircraft at taxpayer’s expense, as well as allegations that Ward’s spouse had abused her position as Ward’s wife to force staffers and aides de camp to take her shopping and cover routine expenses.

Ward is also suspected of lavish and unreasonable spending on hotel rooms, travel and other perks for himself and his staff, all at taxpayer expense. From the Boston Globe’s reporting:

"The four-star general who headed U.S. Africa Command 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 has found.

A 99-page report alleges excessive unauthorized spending and travel costs for Gen. William ‘‘Kip’’ Ward, including 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 that Ward and his wife, Joyce, accepted dinner and Broadway show tickets from a government contractor during a trip on which he went backstage to meet actor Denzel Washington and they and several staff members spent two nights at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel."

So while you were busy processing that statement of charges on that hard-working E-4 for a lost canteen cover, you’ll be happy to know that a 4-star general was hard at work in Stuttgart, Germany, overseeing the recently formed Africa Command, or AFRICOM.

At least it’s overseas, though. Unlike CENTCOM, which is near Tampa.

Ward’s retirement has been delayed, pending the completion of the investigation and the release of the report. He is currently occupying a 2-star billet as a special assistant to the Army Vice Chief of Staff. The investigation was completed in June. You can read a redacted version of the report here.

Among the findings:

  • Ward used taxpayer funds to pay for personal trips to Atlanta, Washington and New York City.
  • He extended the length of his trips seven times for personal reasons, while still receiving federal reimbursement for travel expenses.
  • He improperly allowed his wife to accompany him on 15 military flights for purposes that were “not unquestionably official.”
  • He permitted subordinates to run personal errands for his wife and accompany her to unofficial functions.
  • He allowed excessive travel, including a 7-day trip to Bermuda to support his own overnight stay, and a 3-day stay in Baltimore as a result of a 90 minute stop.
  • Incurred lodging expenses over 3 times the per diem limit and accepted full reimbursement from the government, even on the overage expenses on two occasions.
  • He accepted complimentary meals and Broadway show tickets from unauthorized sources in violation of federal rules.

According to investigators, Ward’s lavish spending included some $34,000 in holiday parties and $18,500 in printing costs on a vanity press book to commemorate the Generals’ residence and his time in command there.

The investigation is ultimately under the direction of the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who is himself under fire for allegedly abusing the privilege of military airplanes to travel between the Pentagon and his home in Carmel Valley, California. Panetta must travel by DoD plane with modern communications equipment – at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $32,000 per trip. While you’re paying off a lost shelter half from ten years and three PCS moves ago, Panetta has racked up over $860,000 in personal travel costs, traveling back and forth from Washington to California every week. Panetta’s office is ultimately responsible for determining Wards’ fate.

Much of the criticism centered on lavish spending at government expense by the General’s wife, or for her benefit, including transportation to resorts and shopping trips in government vehicles and aircraft, though she performed no official duties on these trips. Similar criticisms have been leveled at the White House in recent years, due to high profile and lavish shopping trips by First Lady Michelle Obama and her entourage, including multi-million dollar trips to Spain, and the use of separate government transportation to depart on a trip to Hawaii only four hours ahead of the President. Some estimates peg the costs of the First Lady’s excesses to the taxpayer at $10 million.

Leadership.

Contributed by Jason Van Steenwyk

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