Fired Air Force General Created Toxic Work Environment: Report


An Air Force general in charge of a Pentagon office that oversees some of the military's top secret programs was fired last year because of the toxic work environment she created for airmen and her staff, according to a new report.

Citing a 2020 Inspector General report obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, Air Force Times on Monday reported that Maj. Gen. Dawn Dunlop was removed from her post as director of the Special Access Programs Control Office, or SAPCO, after she repeatedly disrespected subordinates and once inappropriately grabbed a subordinate's hand without consent in an effort to scold her.

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In several instances, Dunlop spoke to and treated subordinates in a demeaning manner, implying they were stupid after failing to meet her objectives, Air Force Times reported.

Witnesses who spoke to the IG described Dunlop -- the first woman to become a fighter test pilot, to fly the F-22 Raptor stealth jet and to command a test wing -- as "borderline abusive" and "dictatorial." Some said they were even afraid to come to work.

"That's the environment we were in; nothing was ever right," one unidentified witness said in the report.

Other witnesses testified that Dunlop was on a mission to fix a "broken" SAPCO organization.

Her leadership style was perceived as combative, as illustrated by several incidents in the IG report.

In January 2019, a member of Dunlop's staff went into her office to announce that a visitor was on the way. Caught off guard, Dunlop "just went ballistic," the subordinate said, and rebuked her for not alerting her to the visitor coming ahead of time. When the subordinate tried to point to the calendar schedule to note the change, Dunlop grabbed her hand to shake it "like a child to get my attention," the subordinate said in the IG report.

Dunlop later told the IG she wasn't angry, was not disrespectful, and had offered a "light touch" to her staffer's hand, though witnesses described the incident as "completely inappropriate."

The IG found Dunlop's actions were "in violation of rules barring conduct unbecoming an officer," Air Force Times said.

The complaints came to a head during a meeting in May 2019 when several senior leaders watched as Dunlop mocked another senior officer to the point where they stormed out of a meeting in tears, Air Force Times reported.

Ellen Lord, the Pentagon's top acquisition chief, removed Dunlop from the position on May 31 after an Air Force civilian reported the ill-tempered meeting. Multiple investigations were subsequently launched into Dunlop's actions, and she was reassigned as the special assistant to Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Seve Wilson.

In a separate 2019 IG investigation, the Air Force concluded Dunlop also misused her subordinates' time to finish personal requests while she was commander of the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, Germany, between 2016 and 2018, the Times reported.

For example, airmen switched out the tires on Dunlop's car; got an oil change; and drove her car around to empty its gas tank to meet the weight standard before arranging for the vehicle to be shipped back to the U.S.

Dunlop's lawyer, Gary Myers, told Air Force Times the IG reports have been an awakening for the general, who now serves as the service's director of operational capability requirements. But he also said the IG investigations were a result of Dunlop's steadfast commitment to reform SAPCO.

"Throughout her career, Maj. Gen. Dunlop has brought a clear sense of integrity, excellence and a strong desire to serve airmen and the nation," Myers said. "She has always been willing to work with others to take on difficult change where needed to deliver results in support of these values."

He added, "The IG allegations and report of investigation do not reflect who she is as a person, her values or her dedicated service of over 30 years."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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