Accountability Arrives in the Wild Blue
Disciplined: Former Chief of Staff General T. Michael Moseley is one of 14 Air Force generals to be disciplined over the past two years for performance or discipline issues. According to Air Force Times, Moseley received a letter of admonishment for accepting gifts from individuals bidding on USAF contracts. An Air Force Times report on the surge in general officer disciplinary action will be published on 20 December (USAF photo).
Fourteen Air Force generals have been disciplined over the past two years for poor performance or improper conduct, according to Air Force Times.
In an article slated for publication on December 20th, the Times identifies the senior officers who have received Letters of Admonishment or Letters of Reprimand since 2008, when General Norton Schwartz took over as the service's Chief of Staff and Michael Donley became the Air Force Secretary. Under their leadership, the USAF has given admonishment letters to 13 generals, ranging from four-star leaders of major commands, to one-star brigadiers serving in staff billets. During the same period, another general (a three-star) received a Letter of Reprimand, considered a slightly more serious sanction.
In From the Cold obtained an advance copy of the article from sources within the service. E-mail copies of the piece have been circulating among active-duty and retired Air Force members for several days. In recent hours, the article was even posted on a Yahoo news group site.
News of the disciplinary actions have sent shock waves through the Air Force. At least two retired generals described the actions as "extraordinary." One told the Times the Air Force is now applying a tougher standard than anyone else in the Defense Department. In the past, they observed, generals who violated Air Force regulations without criminal intent or fraud would have been told (in private) not to repeat the mistake.
The long list of admonishments and reprimands suggest the service is now holding senior leaders more accountable, a change that critics say is long overdue. In years past, they argue, USAF flag officers have gotten away with offenses ranging from inappropriate relationships, to the unauthorized use of government aircraft. The actions by Schwartz and Donley appear aimed at restoring accountability at the highest levels of military leadership within the Air Force.
Times Staff Writer Bruce Rolfsen, who prepared the article, discovered the generals received punishment for a variety of offenses, most of them performance related. For example, five generals--including two four-stars--were sanctioned for over-spending the Air Force permanent change of station budget by $87 million in 2005. That account is used to pay for the transfer of Force personnel (and their dependents) to new duty stations, both at home and abroad.
At the time of the overrun, three of the five generals held lower flag ranks, and occupied senior positions in the Air Force personnel and budget systems. Officers disciplined for the budget overrun included:
-- General Roger Brady, who left command of U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) on 13 December, ahead of his scheduled retirement on 1 February. Brady received an admonishment for his actions as the three-star deputy chief of staff for personnel when the overrun occurred.
-- General Stephen Lorenz, scheduled to retire as the leader of Air Education and Training Command (AETC) on 1 January. Five years ago, Lorenz was the service's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget when the PCS budget was over-spent. Lorenz, who went on terminal leave last month, also received a letter of admonishment.
Some observers found a certain irony in Lorenz leaving the service under a cloud; as a senior officer, he wrote a series of commentaries on leadership for Air and Space Power Journal, the official professional journal of the USAF. In one of those articles--which appeared about the time of the budget overrun--Lorenz counseled that leaders must "balance shortfalls," and observed that "all decisions must pass the sunshine test."
Other generals disciplined for the PCS budget problem included Lieutenant General Glenn Spears, who currently serves as Commander of 12th Air Force at Davis-Month AFB, Arizona. In 2005, Spears was a Brigadier General, assigned as Director of Personnel Policy. General Speaks also received a Letter of Admonishment, as did Major General Anthony Przybyskawski, who ran the Air Force Personnel Center five years ago, and Brigadier General Sandra Gregory, then the service's director of budget operations and personnel.
General Gregory retired from active duty more than four years ago, in November, 2006. Przybyskawski's retirement is pending, but General Spears remains in his position in Arizona. He is one of only three generals on the discipline list who have not already left the service, or announced their retirement date.
The Air Force has not revealed why its PCS budget experienced such a severe overrun in 2005, or what specific roles the generals played in that debacle. However, the planned retirements of Lorenz, Brady and Przybyskawski were put on hold while the matter was investigated.
Other generals received letters of admonishment for incidents related to the Air Force nuclear scandal of 2007-2008. The Times reports that six flag officers were sanctioned for problems tied to the loose handling and poor accountability of nuclear weapons and components.
The disciplinary list obtained by the paper also includes the former Air Force Chief of Staff, General Michael Moseley who was fired (along with the service secretary, Mike Wynne) for wide-spread problems in the service's nuclear enterprise.
Ironically, Moseley's admonishment was not related to the nuclear issue, but rather, his acceptance of gifts from individuals bidding for Air Force contracts. That is believed to be a referral to the so-called "Thundervision Scandal," when Moseley and his wife spent the weekend at a Pennsylvania estate owned by a TV executive, who was hoping to win a multi-million dollar contract to provide a video screen and production support for the service's precision-flying team, the USAF Thunderbirds.
While the string of disciplinary letters is viewed as a blow for accountability, the punishments imposed on the general officers were relatively minor, except for two of the cases. A letter of admonishment is considered less severe that a letter of reprimand or an Article 15, although an official admonishment is usually enough to kill the career of a general officer. In the cases of General Brady and General Lorenz, both received their fourth star before investigators began probing the PCS budget overrun.
While most of the generals received only an admonishment, two of the officers on the discipline list did receive grade reductions in conjunction with their punishment. Lieutenant General Kevin Sullivan lost a star (and retired as a major general) after receiving a letter of reprimand in connection with the nuclear scandal. He left active duty in the fall of 2008. And earlier this year, Major General Arthur Morrill III, a Vice Director of the Defense Logistics Agency, was given a letter of admonishment for dating a civilian woman while legally separated from his wife. He retired on 1 February as a Brigadier General, after being removed from his post.
It is unclear if the demotions were part of their punishment, or the officers didn't spend enough time in the higher grade to retire at that rank.
Research by Air Force Times found no record of senior officers receiving official admonishments and reprimands at this rate prior to 2008. A spokesman told the paper the USAF doesn't have a way to track letters issued prior to that time.
Despite the sudden jump in disciplinary letters for general officers, at least one Air Force legal streak remains intact. Since it became an independent service in 1947, the USAF has never court-martialed one of its generals, though several have been reduced in grade to Colonel for various infractions. In one well-publicized case, the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force, Major General Thomas Fiscus, was demoted two grades, to Colonel, after admitting to a serious of inappropriate relationships with female subordinates.
Coverage of the flag officer disciplinary actions will be the cover story for the upcoming issue of Air Force Times, appearing on newsstands next Monday.