POSTED: 9:23 a.m. HST, Aug 18, 2012
WASHINGTON >> The four-star general who headed U.S. Africa Command used military vehicles to shuttle his wife shopping and to spas, 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 details 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 the night at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
The report by the Defense Department’s inspector general was obtained Friday by The Associated Press.
Ward served as commander of Schofield Barracks from July 1999 until November of 2000, when he was promoted to a job at the Pentagon.
One incident involved Joyce Ward asking a staff member to go buy her a bag of “dark chocolate Snickers” bars, saying the general would provide “a couple of dollars” for it.
Ward, who is facing possible demotion for his activities, defended the Bermuda layover as a “crew stop” and blamed his staff for making the decision to stay there rather than flying on to Stuttgart, Germany-based Africa Command. His comments were included in the report.
“We conclude Gen. Ward engaged in multiple forms of misconduct related to official and unofficial travel,” the inspector general’s report said. “He conducted officials travel for primarily personal reasons and misused” military aircraft. It said he also misused his position and his staff’s time and received reimbursement for travel expenses that far exceeded the approved daily military rate without approval.
In one case, his request to use military aircraft for a personal trip was denied, so he abruptly changed the trip to an official one, adding a quick meeting, and went anyway.
In numerous other cases, he and his wife used staff and government-rented cars to run errands, pick up flowers, books, snacks and event tickets.
During one 11-day trip to Washington, Ward spent one day visiting wounded soldiers, had a 90-minute meeting on another day and a State Department meeting on a third day but billed the Pentagon more than $129,000 to cover the daily hotel and other costs for him, his wife and 13 civilian and military staff.
The report concluded he did no other official business during that trip.
A common theme running through the report was Ward’s insistence that his wife travel with him at government cost, even though it was often not authorized and she often did not perform official duties. He also routinely stayed in high-priced suites in luxury hotels rather than in standard rooms or less expensive locales.
And his staff — which can include advance and security teams — often traveled days prior to his arrival, including on the Bermuda stop, and stayed after he departed. The cost of rooms in Bermuda for Ward and his staff came to more than $10,000, not including meals, transportation or other costs.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to make a decision on Ward’s fate before the end of the month.
U.S. officials said Ward, who was the first head of the U.S. military’s Africa Command, was warned several times by staff that his activities were wrong, to no avail.