The “Fat Leonard” scandal the Navy is currently embroiled in was bad enough when it was just the middle level officers under scrutiny.
Unfortunately, the corruption looks to be reaching much, much higher. Whether guilty or not, keeping Navy flag officers in service after they have officially retired, not letting them move to new posts or even revoking their security clearances and not allowing them to do their jobs is making an absolute mess of the upper ranks of the Navy.
Let’s not forget, of course, that there is a limit of 219 admirals allowed in the service. If an admiral is not allowed to retire, a captain cannot be promoted to flag rank.
According to defense officials, there are approximately 3 dozen flag officers who are currently being investigated for their role in the Fat Leonard affair.
As I wrote about a while back, Leonard Francis pled guilty to corruption and bribery and made a plea agreement where he would name the people that accepted bribes to enrich his company. The investigation is still ongoing and, obviously, it reaches the highest levels of the Navy command.
Vice Admiral Mike Miller, former superintendent of the Naval Academy; Vice Admiral Ted Branch, head of Naval Intelligence; and Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless, director of intelligence operations are just a few examples of flag officers under investigation who have not been allowed to retire or move to different positions as normal.
This has caused a backlog in the upper commands of the Navy. Officers who should have moved to different positions are being held back, promotions are being delayed and the entire service is suffering.
“There’s a group that have left jobs thinking they were going to retire and are waiting. There’s a group that are in jobs they would like to leave and move on to retirement, and a group that thought they were going to other jobs but because they’re somehow being reviewed they’re unable to do that,” said a Navy official about the effects of the scandal on flag ranks.
Unfortunately, because of the way the investigations are being handled, and by whom, there is no telling for how long they will drag on. The primary investigation is being undertaken by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and they are not even letting the Navy know everyone who is being investigated until they clear them or charge them. Even if an admiral is cleared by the DOJ, their conduct could be investigated by the Navy for ethics violations.
The scandal is far-reaching and important enough that the investigation must be thorough, for both the guilty and innocent. Even a finding of “not guilty” could leave lingering doubts and questions about fitness and competence. It is better to be thorough than quick.
But, no matter how quick they are, Fat Leonard has already made a huge mess of the Navy brass.
Update: The U.S. Navy released a statement on February 10, 2015 censuring Rear admirals Mike Miller, Terry Kraft and David Pimpo (pictured) for their actions during the January to June 2006 deployment of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. According to the statement, the three officers “were found to have improperly accepted gifts from a prohibited source, two were found to have improperly endorsed a commercial business, and one engaged in solicitation of gifts and services from a prohibited source, when they were deployed to the Seventh Fleet area of responsibility during the 2006-2007 timeframe.”
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