Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the demotion of the former head of U.S. Africa Command is proof the Pentagon will not allow its senior officers to escape discipline if they are found guilty of misconduct.
Army Gen. William “Kip” Ward was reduced to three-star rank Tuesday for padding his expenses in a move that will cost the former AFRICOM commander $82,000 up front and nearly $32,000 a year for life in retirement pay.
“The secretary is committed to ensuring that any improprieties or misconduct by senior officers are dealt with swiftly and appropriately,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta chose to take a star away from Ward, who denied wrongdoing, despite pleas by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, to allow Ward to retire at four-star rank.
“Secretary Panetta insists that leaders within the Department of Defense exemplify both professional excellence and sound judgment. 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,” Little said.
Ward will now be able to put in for retirement as a lieutenant general, his request will be accepted, and he will be on terminal leave until the administrative process is completed, a Pentagon official said.
Ward had been accused of spending thousands of dollars on expenses for lavish travel and hotel arrangements, and he also was charged with the unauthorized use of military vehicles to take his wife to spas, according to a report by the Defense Department’s Inspector General.
In a statement issued Tuesday, a spokesman for Ward said the general “has never been motivated by personal gain and fulfilled each and every mission assigned to him and served his country and the men and women assigned to his commands with distinction.”
The spokesman said that “while Gen. Ward is not perfect, he has always been guided by his faith in God and the belief that there is no greater honor as a patriot than to lead those who choose to serve our nation in the armed forces.”
Panetta ordered Ward to pay back $82,000. The Associated Press reported that the demotion to three-star rank will also reduce his retirement pay by about $30,000 a year.
Ward, 63, a 41-year Army veteran, was selected as the first commander of the new Africa Command in 2007 and has since been succeeded in that post by Army Gen. Carter Ham. Ward had previously served as deputy commander of European Command.