Spencer Ackerman / The Guardian – 2016-09-02 01:04:39
Pentagon Invests in Casinos and Strippers
Defense department officials did not adequately discipline subordinates who were found using government charge cards on ‘adult entertainment’, report finds
Pentagon Officials Allowed Government Spending at Strip Clubs and Casinos
Spencer Ackerman / The Guardian
NEW YORK (August 30, 2016) — Pentagon officials permitted their subordinates to use government charge cards to ring up nearly $100,000 in expenses at strip clubs and “adult entertainment establishments” and almost $1 million at casinos, all without serious reprisal, a new report reveals.
Even after the US defense department’s official watchdog lambasted the expenses for adult entertainment and gambling, senior officials did not take “appropriate” disciplinary action, according to a report by the department’s inspector general released on Tuesday.
An audit of 30 government charge-card holders determined that defense department officials neither adequately reviewed travel vouchers for reimbursement nor took action to “eliminate additional misuse”.
In fact, most of those audited — 22 out of the 29 who retained their travel vouchers — received “overpayments” on their requested reimbursements at the casinos or adult-entertainment centers, totaling $8,544.
Government charge cards are supposed to be used for expenses incurred for official government business, particularly during official travel. Beyond the embarrassment of Pentagon officials getting away with using their charge cards in the clubs and casinos, the inspector general found that Pentagon management “did not consider the security implications of improper personal use of the travel card”, the report found.
The inspector general found the Pentagon experienced “potential national security vulnerabilities” by supervisors’ late or insufficient notification of the improper expenses.
The inspector general first discovered the casino and adult entertainment expenses on official government travel cards in 2015, and conducted the new inquiry to determine how superiors held those incurring the costs accountable.
That earlier inquiry found defense department personnel charging the government for 900 “adult entertainment transactions” amounting to $96,576; and 4,437 casino transactions totaling $952,258.
An army lieutenant colonel with 10 “high-risk casino transactions” did not inform his commanders of the expenses, despite assuring the inspector general the previous year that he would.
An air force lieutenant colonel who was “verbally counseled” and encouraged to seek help for a gambling problem was still permitted to use a government travel card with a $1,000 ATM withdrawal limit, substantially larger than the standard $665 cutoff.
A sergeant first class was able to keep using his official travel card even after he left the army.
A repeat offender, an air force reservist turned civilian, had his security clearance suspension reduced to a week after he pleaded to a supervisor that he used the card to avoid “starving to death, becoming homeless, or being stranded in the desert due to no gas”.
After racking up over $35,000 in official expenses and twice being disciplined for misuse, his subsequent commanders “were never notified of the travel card misuse or discipline”.
Four-star generals have been disgraced for less. The former commander of the US military’s Africa Command, Army General William “Kip” Ward, was fired in 2011 for using military transportation for personal travel and having subordinates purchase candy for his wife.
Additionally, the navy is experiencing a far-ranging crisis among its officer corps for accepting cash bribes and prostitutes from a contractor known as “Fat Leonard”.
At least 14 officers have been charged with crimes and as many as 200 are under inquiry in a scandal that left the sea service’s former chief of intelligence unable to view classified information for years while under investigation.
A navy civilian singled out for 258 improper expenses by the inspector general did not have disciplinary action taken against him beyond receiving counseling, despite charging over $29,000 to the government while at casinos.
His supervisors did not “review the cardholder’s transaction history for additional misuse”, the inspector general found, and the navy civilian spent another $3,453 “after we notified the command of the potential personal use in December 2014”.
The earlier inspector general report found that a petty officer first class at the elite Navy Special Warfare Command — which oversees the Navy Seals — used his government charge card at El Paso’s “Dreams Cabaret, Jaguars Gold Club, Tequila Sunrise, and Red Parrot Gentlemen’s Club.”
A senior airman from a North Carolina-based maintenance squadron spent over $4,600 at the Sapphire Gentlemen’s club near Las Vegas, including a trip to the VIP room for himself “and several friends”.
In the new report, the inspector general found that a navy employee who spent $1,417 at an undisclosed “adult” entertainment facility was “counseled/retrained/new statement of understanding/PG-13” as his only discipline.
An airman whose subsequent audit found more $6,000 of casino expenses beyond what the inspectors initially found in 2015 only received a “letter of counseling” after the later discovery.
Carrie Wibben, who heads the counterintelligence and security directorate for the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, wrote to the inspector general certifying that she found “no factual errors” in the inspectors’ findings.
Wibben said the undersecretary’s office had accordingly updated a personnel-security manual to incorporate tougher safeguards on official expenses, and expected it to be published by 31 December.
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