Saturday, May 15, 2010

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.


planethou said...

Nice summary. However, you shouldn't limit it to just the military. The same adage about "different spanks" also holds true for politicians and executives of major corporations. Another old adage comes to mind, "those that have the gold make the rules."

Sacramentum said...

I agree with the basic premise of your entry, but you may want to check your facts about nonjudicial punishment for an offense that occurs in the civilian community. According to AFI 51-201, ¶ 2.6.2, if the civilians exercise jurisdiction over the case, the Air Force may not proceed with an Article 15 or a court-martial without the express consent of the Secretary of the Air Force. In most cases, military authorities do not seek such approval from SecAF.

Cobb said...

It seems to me that in one human body, you can only squish so much experience. To excel in one thing, on average, means you will have a deficit in the other.

Why do we pretend that all things are equal?

kitanis said...

I remember when my commander (a Lieutenant Colonel) was picked up for DUI..

I was working as a part time reserve officer in a town and one of the adjoining towns around the base picked him up.. and I heard the call for a license check on him then the call to central dispatch declared incarceration.. This was on a Saturday Evening.

I knew the man would have been released the followding day.. But I was flored that we had a early morning recall on Monday.. and our Vice-Group Commander from Texas was declaring that he was temporarily our (we were a tenant unit on a base in another state) in-term commander until another one was assigned.

The Lieutenant Colonel was removed from his command and offered a slot on the base to serve out his remaining 8 months on his tour... He refused, and asked for early retirement. In one way it was sad.. in another. I respected him for his decision.. he could have waited it out and escaped with just removal from command...

But at the next base I was assigned.. I witnessed a 1st Lieutenant get a DUI.. and the only thing that really happened to her was a letter of reprimand and a lost of a PCS tour that she was due for.. So she remained in her job slot of a additional six months before receiving another PCS move.. Last I heard after I retired four years later.. she had a line number for Major.

The rules are indeed different for Officers.. But it looks like this General got the better part of the deal.

Susan Katz Keating said...

As always, an excellent report. And about that retired 4-star... USAF, or...?