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Top general demoted amid questions about his lavish expenses

November 13, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • Gen. William "Kip" Ward, seen in a file photo, has been demoted to a three-star general after his lavish, and improper, spending habits were uncovered.
Gen. William "Kip" Ward, seen in a file photo, has been demoted… (Caleb Jones / Associated…)

Gen. William “Kip” Ward, who was found by investigators to have improperly spent thousands of dollars on lavish travel and other expenses, will retire as a three-star general, one step below the four-star rank he held when he was head of the U.S. Africa Command, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Defense.

The decision to demote Ward was announced as official Washington is dealing with the resignation of retired Army Gen. David Petraeus as CIA director because of an extramarital affair. Questions have also been raised about whether Marine Gen. John Allen improperly exchanged emails with a Florida woman who had received threatening emails prompting the FBI investigation that uncovered Petraeus’ extracurricular activities.

The demotion by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ends the career of Ward, 63, on a sour note. He was the first commander of U.S. Africa Command and was planning on retiring in 2011, but his departure was delayed by the 17-month investigation of his spending habits.

During that time, Ward was a two-star general in Washington, serving as a special assistant to the vice chief of staff of the Army, Defense officials said.

In addition to the loss of rank,  Ward will have to repay the government $82,000, according to a DOD spokesperson.

The demotion will cost Ward about $30,000 a year off of his pension, which drops to about $208,000 a year.

In a statement issued Tuesday, a spokesman for Ward said the general has never been motivated by personal gain.

“While Gen. Ward is not perfect he has always been guided by his faith in God and the belief that there is no greater honor as a patriot than to lead those who choose to serve our nation in the armed forces,” spokesman Chris Garrett told the Associated Press.

Because of the complexity of military regulations, Panetta could have chosen to let Ward retire as either a four-star general or demote him. Despite recommendations from senior military officers, Panetta decided to demote Ward after an inspector general’s report found that the general had acted improperly.

The report found that Ward had used military vehicles to transport his wife on shopping trips and to a spa. Ward had also stayed at lavish hotels in New York and Bermuda. Ward was accused of accepting dinner and Broadway tickets from a military contractor.

The top military titles including admiral, vice admiral, four-star general or three-star lieutenant general are tied to specific jobs that require a presidential appointment and congressional confirmation. They are also usually temporary.

About two months after leaving the African command, Ward reverted to his two-star level while awaiting a decision on his retirement status, officials said.

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