DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
3 December 1996

BUSTING THE TRUST

A midshipman at the U.S. Military academy at Annapolis recently wrote "We now get tons of lectures on 'walking-the-straight-and-narrow.' But I'm not sure if the Navy is targeting the right audience. From what I read our senior brass could use the instruction a lot more than we middies."

This future officer is on target. Fact is the Pentagon Inspector General has been investigating top brass misdeeds for years. Most trespasses are hushed up, and the culprits are quietly retired unless the media gets ahold of the story. Then it's a thirty second sound bite: ADMIRALS RIP OFF NORFOLK BASE POST EXCHANGE.

But there have been scores of misdeeds by top brass in all the services during the last few years from adultery to misappropriation to lying to Congress that seldom hit the news.

Some are big dishonors such as when in 1988 retired Adm. William Crowe lied to the American people over whether a U.S. warship was in Iranian waters when it shot down an Iranian passenger jet.

Others deal with millions of your tax dollars wasted on harebrained fancies like beautifying a tank park or painting every building on an Air Force base the general's favorite color. And some deal with petty cash stuff such as Army Major General LeRoy R. Goff's recent phony car trip at taxpayer's expense from his base at Fort Hood, Texas to his daughter's college in North Carolina. He dropped her and her car off and then flew commercially to Fort Bragg, NC to do "official business." But his side trip with his kid clipped you $267.70 for mileage, hotel and Per Diem.

I asked Rip Off Goff why he went to Bragg. He says he was trying to find ways to save the Army money so they wouldn't be cut another 20,000 personnel spaces. I told him if he really wanted to save the Army dough, he should've stayed home.

Once Goff found out I was writing about his two-bit travel scams he suddenly paid the Army back the money he shouldn't have taken in the first place for this and other padded up trips.

The visit-the-kid-in-college on the taxpayer's tab is a common high brass trick. Two Army generals were recently investigated for flying their VIP jets to their kids' graduations. Unlike Goff, they covered their tracks by the standard ploy: giving the local ROTC detachments a little pep talk. Neither general got burned. But flying thousands of miles on a big VIP jet with running costs of about three grand an hour to talk to 100 cadets is a bit much.

Another high flyer is Admiral Richard C. Macke who was recently nailed for using his VIP aircraft to fly from Hawaii to California to visit his two uniformed girlfriends (one was a Marine Lt. Col., the other a Navy Lt. Commander).

Senator Charles Grassley (R. Io) says Macke also ran up "in excess of $6,000 worth of unauthorized charges that were billed to and paid by the taxpayer." Most of these costs were for 850 long distance phone calls to one of his paramours.

Macke still hasn't been billed for the $6,000. At least when General Joseph W. Ashy misused a VIP aircraft to fly his wife to Washington, D.C., he had to pay $5,500 -- the cost of the flight -- and he was retired early.

Such conduct violates the public trust and destroys our confidence of all of those who are in charge, even those who haven't violated the honor code.

Such behavior must stop! Officers are endowed with "special trust and confidence." These are the words that appear on their certificates of commission. The higher the brass hats, the more trust we citizens place in them. They hold the security of our nation in their hands, and they determine how billions of our dollars are spent.

Integrity is the basis for an officer's authority to lead. That's why it's stressed so strongly at commissioning schools like Annapolis.

The Middie is right! But a few lectures to the top brass won't do the job. It's up to the Pentagon's top civilian leaders and the Senators who confirm these guys for stars to hold them accountable to higher or at least the same standards as the enlisted folks.