Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced last night that the onetime top Pentagon official in Africa has been forced to retire after an investigation found that he traveled too lavishly.
Panetta decided that Gen. William E. Ward, former commander of U.S. Africa Command, should be retired at the grade of lieutenant general. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey reportedly urged Panetta to let Ward retire at his four-star rank.
“The Department of the Army will also seek to recoup roughly $82,000 in expenses stemming from Gen. Ward’s misconduct in travel, misuse of military aircraft, misuse of staff, and the receipt of reimbursements to which he was not entitled,” the late night statement said.
In June 2012, the Department of Defense Inspector General released an investigation finding that Ward had “engaged in numerous substantiated acts of misconduct related to misuse of government funds during his tenure as commander of U.S. Africa Command.”
The violations reportedly consist of using military vehicles to shuttle his wife on shopping trips, accepting dinner from a government contractor, and spending a couple of nights at the Waldorf Astoria.
Since departing U.S. Africa Command, by operation of law Ward reverted to the grade of major general and is currently serving as a special assistant to the Army vice chief of staff in that grade.
“Secretary Panetta insists that leaders within the Department of Defense exemplify both professional excellence and sound judgment,” the statement from press secretary George Little said. “The secretary recognizes that the vast majority of senior officers in the military abide by the letter and spirit of our laws and regulations, and utilize sound judgment in their stewardship of taxpayer resources. The secretary is committed to ensuring that any improprieties or misconduct by senior officers are dealt with swiftly and appropriately.”
In the Bush administration, Ward served as the United States Security Coordinator, Israel – Palestinian Authority while deputy commander at U.S. European Command.
President Obama put the nomination of the next European commander on hold while Gen. John Allen is being investigated for “inappropriate communications” with a Tampa socialite involved in the Petraeus affair. If Allen goes, he will be the fourth general in Afghanistan to fall due to ouster or scandal during Obama’s term.