DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
July 11, 1995

IT'S OK TO LIE, CHEAT AND STEAL, IT'S JUST THE TAXPAYERS' MONEY

The Pentagon inspector general has concluded that Gen. Joseph Ashy's $424,602 escapades -- he flew himself, his 21-year-old female aide and the family cat from Italy to Colorado aboard a U. S. Air Force 200-seat aircraft; he flew his wife round-trip on an Air Force VIP air- craft from Colorado to Washington, D.C.; and he made palatial renovations at his headquarters -- were "wasteful."

The report says Ashy's high-spending "reflects a culture that apparently lacks adequate cost consciousness in providing services to senior officials."

This weasel-worded document should get a medal for Pentagon doublespeak. In plain old English, 'wasteful' and "apparently lacks adequate cost consciousness" means the taxpayers got ripped-off for almost a half million bucks by a member of our military elite, and virtually nothing is being done about it!

Ashy was fined a mere $5,020 and continues to have four stars and his finger on the nuclear button. Scary? Check out his flawed judgment: his blatant misuse of military aircraft, his spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on his plush office and lavish conference room, as well as an $8,978 road alteration so he wouldn't have to drive around the block at his Space Command fiefdom in Colorado!

As usual, no one was held accountable or responsible, even though Senate insiders thought Ashy would be reduced in grade and drummed out of the service as a warning to others not to abuse their office or the taxpayers' trust.

Last year, a Clinton aide misused a helicopter for a golfing outing and was forced to resign and repay the government for the total cost of the triple bogey flight.

Talk about justice! Had Ashy been a grunt, he would have gotten the boot. A Senate source says, 'Ashy got away with it because most of the big brass do it, and the White House doesn't want to make waves."

Clinton's politically correct appointees, like Inspector General Eleanor Hall, who signed off on the white- washed report, won't nail the brass. They don't want to rouse the generals' and admirals' old boys' club to fan the fires of Clinton's draft-dodging past as he gears up for re-election in '96.

The I.G. account also failed to nail the four U.S. Air Force colonels who repeatedly lied or tried to fog up what had really happened when I was chasing the story. The report said the Air Force was 'inept" and "careless" in response to my inquiries and provided me with 'incorrect facts. More Pentagon gobbledygook. The dirt bags lied through their teeth and were caught red-handed.

Not one of the spinmeisters-in- blue was punished. The report didn't take into consideration that the liars were Air Force officers required by code and recent orders from their Air Force boss man, Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, "to maintain the highest degree of integrity."

Instead, they have all survived to lie another day, which can't instill a lot of confidence in an American public still holding on to the belief that its military officers don't "lie, cheat or steal."

Will this watered down report stop the lying or cause the Air Force to change its high-spending ways? A recent General Accounting Office report says the Air Force intends to buy two more VIP 'comfort pallets" like the one in which Ashy luxuriated.

This report says one of these presidential flying suites is for Secretary of the Air Force Sheila Widnall, the other for a general in Korea. You'd think with the drawdown we'd be selling the damn things rather than buying new ones at $750,000 a pop.

The Cold War has ended, and we're told defense dollars are as tight as our personal dollars, but our top brass are still living better than Bill Gates. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a senator who raises bloody hell over government waste, says, "What these generals need is an attitude adjustment, a dose of humility."

From my read of the I.G. report that nailed no one, the adjustment won't come from the Pentagon's new top watchdog, Hall. A cleanup will only come from within, and the man with the broom, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Fogleman, is the only guy who can sweep away the culture of corruption destroying a once untarnished institution.