Pentagon to scrutinize generals' entourages
By: Kate Brannen
December 7, 2012 05:10 PM EST
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey plans to review the numbers and kinds of aides and other “support” personnel who frequently surround the military’s general officers, the Defense Department said Friday.
“Gen. Dempsey believes we must look at the level and type of support senior leaders receive in the execution of their duties to ensure that it is necessary and to be sure we’re being consistent, sensible and efficient,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters at the Pentagon.
The new scrutiny arose after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered Dempsey to conduct a review of the ethics training for generals and admirals in November after a series of high-profile scandals involving military leaders.
Dempsey completed his initial review last week and delivered his recommendations to Panetta, who conveyed them to the White House.
Little said Panetta had not yet decided himself whether the level of support for the top brass has become excessive.
The sex scandal that engulfed former CIA Director David Petraeus, a retired four-star Army general, exposed the sometimes glitzy lifestyle of the top ranks. For example, when Petraeus was in charge of U.S. Central Command, according to one report, he showed up for a party in Tampa, Fla., escorted by 28 police motorcycles.
General and flag officers typically have lots of support staff, who do everything from carry bags and fetch beverages to provide military and strategic advice. In some cases, top commanders have taken advantage of their aides by ordering them to take frivolous or improper assignments or relying on them to help shield their transgressions.
In addition to examining the support personnel who surround general officers, Dempsey is also looking at the ethics training they receive.
Dempsey believes that while today’s training for senior leaders is appropriate, it needs to start earlier and be reinforced more frequently throughout an officer’s career, Little said.
In addition to the Petraeus scandal, which also involved Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, this year saw a handful of other cases of improper behavior in the top ranks.
Gen. William "Kip" Ward, the four-star general who led the U.S. Africa Command, was demoted to three stars in November after the DoD inspector general found he’d spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on lavish travel. His staff members came up with official-sounding excuses for him to take personal trips with his wife and were tasked with missions such as picking up a dark chocolate Snickers bar.
Lt. Gen Patrick O’Reilly was forced to retire from his job leading the Missile Defense Agency after the inspector general concluded he’d been a bully of a boss. Investigators found that he “demeaned and belittled” his employees, treating them like “a bunch of robots.”
And Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, the former deputy commanding general for support for the 82nd Airborne Division, was sent home in September after being charged with forcible sodomy, adultery and other crimes.
Still, the Pentagon maintains these instances do not represent a deeper or more widespread problem throughout the military’s highest ranks.
“The secretary strongly believes that the vast majority of general and flag officers behave in a manner that’s consistent with the highest standards of conduct,” Little said. “There have been limited instances in which a very small number of general and flag officers have fallen short of those standards of conduct.”