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Generals Not Disciplined in Misuse of Aircraft

The former head of the Virginia National Guard and his assistant, both retired generals, were found to have misused government aircraft in a Pentagon investigation concluded a year ago, yet it appears they have faced no disciplinary action.

They flew on the guard's Black Hawk helicopters -- at a cost of $5,000 per hour -- when they could have driven, the investigators found. In addition, the top general was found to have used the aircraft for a nongovernmental purpose and brought his wife along without proper authorization.

The findings of the Defense Department's inspector general were not made public but were released to The Virginian-Pilot this month, two years after the newspaper filed an open-records request.

As adjutant general, the Virginia Guard's top post, from 2006 to 2010, Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Newman Jr. was responsible for the combat readiness, administration and training of more than 8,200 personnel. Army Brig. Gen. Stephen Huxtable was assistant adjutant general from 2009 to 2010.

Both are now retired from the military. Newman is a homeland security consultant. Huxtable still works for the state as director of personnel and administration for the Department of Military Affairs.

The Pentagon investigation, launched in response to an anonymous complaint, concluded in a report dated May 24, 2011, that both generals improperly used official government transportation and recommended that the National Guard Bureau in Arlington "consider appropriate corrective action."

A spokesman for the bureau was unable to say last week whether any such action has been taken.

Newman said he was following the procedures for use of military aircraft that were in place at the Virginia Guard when he assumed his post. A spokesman for the guard said the procedures have since been tightened.

Over a 13-month period examined by the investigators, Newman traveled by helicopter 27 times. Six of those flights were found to be improper. All were within Virginia, covering distances as short as the 60 miles from Richmond to Fort Pickett, near Blackstone.

On five of those trips, the investigators found that Newman brought along his wife, Becky, without proper approval. Defense Department regulations prohibit guardsmen's family members from traveling on government aircraft without approval from the governor or lieutenant governor.

Most of the trips were ceremonial. Newman and his wife flew to Fort Pickett for a change of command and a dedication of new howitzers, to Lexington for the dedication of a new building at Virginia Military Institute, to Winchester to visit a new armory, and to Bedford for an infantry deployment.

In one of those instances, the Winchester armory visit, the investigators found that Newman had no pressing schedule conflicts that required him to fly rather than drive.

An additional trip to Fort Pickett for a meeting of the Virginia National Guard Foundation, a private nonprofit organization, was improper because it served no official government purpose, the investigators found.

Huxtable used Virginia Guard helicopters for 16 trips during the period examined by the investigators. They found that one of those trips, to Roanoke for an event honoring soldiers and veterans, was improper because Huxtable had no pressing reason to fly rather than drive.

Huxtable did not respond to a request for comment.

Newman, in an emailed statement, said he followed procedures "that were in existence, and used by my predecessor, when I assumed the post of adjutant general."

He said that when his wife accompanied him, it was "in her very active role of supporting our Virginia Guard families."

In addition, Newman said, he was informed by staff that "flights on which I flew were ones where the crew completed required training, thus enabling the use of training dollars as opposed to operational funds."

Cotton Puryear, a spokesman for the Virginia Guard, said that when Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Long Jr. became adjutant general in 2010, he instituted a process requiring all officers to review their travel and other activities with the state inspector general to ensure that regulations are being followed. Long also personally spot-checks travel records on a regular basis, Puryear said.

Newman was appointed to the top Virginia Guard post by then-Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat. Kaine's Republican successor, Gov. Bob McDonnell, declined to reappoint him after The Pilot reported that for several years he held a paid position with a business run by one of his subordinate officers, whom he promoted while collecting a paycheck from the business.

Newman said a subsequent inspector general's investigation exonerated him of conflict-of-interest allegations arising from that relationship.

In 2008, a state investigation found that Newman and his wife improperly spent $3,600 in state funds on household items for the adjutant general's part-time residence at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach.

In 2010, two state investigations found that Huxtable collected paychecks on several occasions from both the state and federal governments for the same work hours.

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