Different Spanks for Different Ranks
The "pride" of Air Force Material Command, Major General David Eidsaune, shortly after his arrest for DUI in February. According to a command spokesperson, Eidsaune has already been "punished" by his boss (General Donald Hoffman) and the sanctions did not involve a reduction in grade or loss position (Henderson, NV Police Department photo via Air Force Times)
It's no secret: a DUI conviction in the military is (normally) a career killer.
If you're an enlisted member, you will likely receive military punishment on top of your civilian sentence. Expect to lose your security clearance and say good-bye to any chance at promotion or reenlistment. For officers (below the grade of Colonel) it's essentially the same drill, although some are allowed to finish out their careers.
But, if you're a flag officer, it's a different game.
During my career, I knew of a four-star who--reportedly--had a pair of DUIs at two different bases. This officer had other ethical and conduct problems as well, but it didn't prevent his rise to leadership of a major command. In retirement, the former four-star has run his own consulting firm, maintained a security clearance and won several DoD contracts.
And, Major General David Eidsaune appears to be following in his dubious footsteps.
Eidsaune, you'll recall, was arrested on DUI charges by police in Henderson, Nevada on 9 February, while he was TDY to Nellis AFB. At the time, General Edisaune was Director of Air, Space and Information Operations for Air Force Material Command, headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.
However, his arrest did not affect a subsequent reassignment as AFMC's Director of Strategic Plans, Programs and Analyses. Major General Eidsaune moved into that job in mid-March, about five weeks after his DUI arrest in Nevada. Both jobs require a Top Secret/SCI security clearance; Eidsaune's access to classified information was apparently unaffected by his run-in with the law, an event that would have resulted in a suspended clearance for lower-ranking airmen.
And, Eidsaune has already been punished by his boss, AFMC Commander General Donald Hoffman. A command spokesman told Air Force Times that Hoffman has "already taken appropriate action" before General Eidsaune faced civil sanctions in Nevada. Eidsaune's punishment has not been disclosed, but he did not lose his position or his current rank. Most observers believe General Eidsaune received either a letter of reprimand or a letter of admonishment, which will end his chances at future promotion.
But that sanction is far less severe than the punishment imposed on enlisted personnel and lower-ranking officers. Enlisted members would almost certainly face an Article 15 (non-judicial punishment), resulting in the loss of a stripe, forfeiture of a portion of their pay for several months, and the eventual end of their military careers. Officers would also receive an Article 15, with an accompanying fine and possible separation from the service. Offenders in both groups would also lose access to classified information and face an uphill fight in restoring their clearances.
Predictably, the civilian judge in Nevada was tougher on Eidsaune than his boss at Wright-Patterson. The general had his day in court this week, and received a $577 fine. He was also ordered to attend driving school, participate in a victim-impact panel and undergo a chemical dependence assessment. The judge also handed down a jail sentence of 60 days, with all but two of the days suspended, and he received time-served credit for those two days.
Eidsaune's "civilian" sentence was appropriate for a first-time DUI offender in the state of Nevada. But his military punishment was an embarrassment to everyone who wears the Air Force uniform. It's only the latest affirmation that USAF generals are a privileged class, virtually immune to the sanctions imposed on mere mortals. If Eidsaune had been a lower-ranking officer, he would have been fired from his job, stripped of his clearance and exiled to some windowless office while the service decided on his ultimate fate (administrative separation versus being allowing to serve until retirement).
We're guessing that General Hoffman is thankful his subordinate didn't kill or injure anyone during his DUI jaunt, or damage any property. That would have left Hoffman in a bind; it would be tough (read: impossible) to justify Eidsaune's "slap-on-the-wrist" if he had been involved in a wreck that caused injury, death or significant property damage.
Still, it's bad enough that an Air Force flag officer was busted for DUI and had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit at the time he was pulled over. In this era of "zero tolerance" for alcohol offenses, that should be enough to end Eidsaune's career. Instead, he is being allowed to retain his job--security clearance apparently intact--and keep serving until retirement.
A few months ago, General Hoffman was confronted with another case of misconduct involving a senior staff member. Command Chief Master Sergeant William Gurney was accused of serial sexual harassment of female subordinates and having extra-martial affairs with at least four women. When those allegations surfaced, General Hoffman immediately fired Gurney and threw the book at him. Chief Gurney will face an Article 32 hearing later this month, to determine if he will be court-martialed for his alleged misconduct.
Clearly, Hoffman's actions were appropriate in the Gurney case. But, his handling of General Eidsaune's DUI was disappointing, to say the least. It merely reaffirms the old military adage of "different spanks for different ranks" and does nothing to discourage similar misconduct among those who wear the stars.
To be fair, the overwhelming majority of military flag officers serve honorably and with distinction. But bad apples like Eidsaune--and that retired four-star--do nothing to enhance the honor and reputation of our highest-ranking military officers.