US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has demoted the former head of US Africa Command who was accused of spending thousands of dollars on lavish travel and other unauthorized expenses, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
Panetta stripped General William “Kip” Ward of a star, which means that he will now retire as a three-star lieutenant general. Ward has also been ordered to repay the government US$82,000.
US Secretary of the Army John McHugh concurred with Panetta’s decision, Pentagon press secretary George Little said in a statement.
The demotion came after retired Army General David Petraeus resigned as CIA director because of an extramarital affair and Marine General John Allen was being investigated for improper communications with a woman.
A spokesman for Ward, Chris Garrett, said in a statement that 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.”
Retiring as a three-star will cost Ward about US$30,000 a year in retirement pay — giving him close to US$208,802 a year rather than the US$236,650 he would receive as a four-star general.
A report by the US Department of Defense Inspector General found that Ward used military vehicles to shuttle his wife on shopping trips and to a spa, and billed the government for a refueling stop overnight in Bermuda, where the couple stayed in a US$750 suite. The report detailed 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.
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 performed few official duties.
It said he also routinely stayed in high-priced suites in luxury hotels rather than in standard rooms or less expensive locales.
The allegations, coming after a 17-month investigation, have delayed Ward’s planned retirement in April last year, and they were an embarrassing end note to his career, since he had claimed a place in history as the military’s first commander of Africa Command.