A Pocket Guide to the Military’s Many Scandals

Cadets of The United States Military Academy prepare to take their seats for a graduation and commissioning ceremony May 26, 2012 in West Point, New York.
National Journal
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Jordain Carney and Sara Sorcher
Feb. 4, 2014, midnight

Don’t be sur­prised that the mil­it­ary is start­ing to fo­cus more on eth­ics train­ing.

A series of high-pro­file — and, at times, bor­der­line ri­dicu­lous — scan­dals have dom­in­ated the head­lines about the mil­it­ary ser­vices in re­cent months. The Air Force’s cheat­ing im­broglio has en­snared nearly half the nuc­le­ar-mis­sile crew at one key base; the Navy’s sex-and-bribery brouhaha keeps get­ting wider and weirder. And a massive fraud in­vest­ig­a­tion tied to an Army Na­tion­al Guard re­cruit­ing pro­gram will be un­veiled at a Sen­ate hear­ing on Tues­day.

Mil­it­ary edu­ca­tion schools will now sport “eth­ics units,” as top of­ficers re­view prop­er pro­ced­ures for travel and ac­cept­ing gifts, Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mar­tin De­mp­sey told The Wall Street Journ­al. And pro­mo­tions will more strongly con­sider of­ficers’ char­ac­ters.

Be­fore that’s all done, though, you may find our handy-dandy guide to re­cent mil­it­ary scan­dals pretty use­ful.


Re­cruit­ing Fraud Scan­dal:

It’s one of the biggest fraud in­vest­ig­a­tions in the Army’s his­tory. That’s the word from Sen. Claire Mc­Caskill, the Mis­souri Demo­crat whose sub­com­mit­tee on fin­an­cial and con­tract­ing over­sight will re­veal de­tails about an emer­ging scan­dal in a pub­lic hear­ing Tues­day.

The Re­cruit­ing As­sist­ance Pro­gram was once con­sidered to be among the most suc­cess­ful re­cruit­ing pro­grams in U.S. mil­it­ary his­tory. Cre­ated at the height of the Ir­aq War in 2005, the pro­gram paid Na­tion­al Guards­men, re­tir­ees, and ci­vil­ians for their re­fer­rals of friends and fam­ily who joined up. The pro­gram was so suc­cess­ful, it ex­pan­ded to in­clude the Army and its re­serve corps, but it was can­celed in 2012.

Sol­diers serving as re­cruit­ers (or re­cruit­ing as­sist­ants) were not meant to get the re­fer­ral bo­nuses. Today, more than 800 sol­diers are be­ing in­vest­ig­ated for un­fairly profit­ing off that sys­tem, ac­cord­ing to USA Today, and get­ting im­prop­er bo­nuses said to total in the “tens of mil­lions.” We’ll hear more in Tues­day’s hear­ing. Lt. Gen. Wil­li­am Grisoli, dir­ect­or of the Army Staff, will testi­fy; so will Maj. Gen. Dav­id Quan­tock, com­mand­ing gen­er­al for the U.S. Army Crim­in­al In­vest­ig­a­tion Com­mand and Army Cor­rec­tions com­mand. Aud­it­ors and former of­fi­cials from the Na­tion­al Guard will also speak.


Nuc­le­ar Force Scan­dals:

Nearly half of the 190 of­ficers at an Air Force base in Montana are tem­por­ar­ily sus­pen­ded for al­legedly cheat­ing on a monthly pro­fi­ciency ex­am — or for know­ing about the cheat­ing. That would have been a bad enough P.R. night­mare for the Air Force. But the in­cid­ent is only the latest for an in­creas­ingly battered nuc­le­ar-mis­sile crew, amid ques­tions about its mor­ale and se­cur­ity.

The al­leged cheat­ing was un­covered as in­vest­ig­at­ors probed il­leg­al drug use in the nuke force — and the news, un­for­tu­nately for mil­it­ary me­dia pro­fes­sion­als every­where, broke around the same time that De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel vis­ited one of three bases re­spons­ible for the coun­try’s nuc­le­ar mis­siles. Air Force of­fi­cials said last month that 10 of­ficers have been tied to that in­vest­ig­a­tion.

There was also trouble at the top. The Air Force fired Maj. Gen. Mi­chael Carey, who over­saw this coun­try’s land-based nuc­le­ar mis­siles, in Oc­to­ber. The In­spect­or Gen­er­al out­lined his “im­prop­er con­duct” while part of a del­eg­a­tion to Mo­scow. That’s put­ting it mildly. Carey, ap­par­ently, boldly de­clared that Pentagon lead­er­ship didn’t sup­port him, danced and in­ter­ac­ted with for­eign wo­men, and was pub­licly drunk — to the point that wit­nesses wor­ried about his abil­ity to re­main up­right. He also made com­ments “re­gard­ing lovely ladies” that troubled some of the of­fi­cials Carey was with.


Con­tract­ing Fraud:

A wealthy Malay­si­an con­tract­or known as “Fat Le­onard” is ac­cused of brib­ing Navy of­fi­cials with cash, trips, and pros­ti­tutes — in ex­change for ship­ping in­form­a­tion. It’s a bizarre scan­dal re­veal­ing a com­plex, and al­legedly fraud­u­lent web, between Glenn De­fense Mar­ine Asia CEO Le­onard Glenn Frances and the Navy, which has already cost two seni­or Navy of­fi­cials and an NCIS agent their jobs and prom­ises to sweep up more.

The House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee is now in­vest­ig­at­ing the af­fair, which the Justice De­part­ment terms a “multi-na­tion­al, multi-year, multi-mil­lion dol­lar fraud of the United States Navy.” It is simply the latest twist in one of the Navy’s biggest scan­dals in re­cent years. Be­sides the three ar­rests of the ser­vice mem­bers (and Fat Le­onard), four oth­er Navy of­fi­cials are be­ing in­vest­ig­ated. But be­fore the Christ­mas hol­i­day, Navy Sec­ret­ary Ray Mabus said he ex­pec­ted more dis­clos­ures will come from the on­go­ing in­vest­ig­a­tion.


Corpse-De­fil­ing Scan­dal:

One of the ugli­est in­cid­ents in Mar­ine Corps his­tory isn’t over yet.

The Mar­ine Corps is still wrest­ling with the ripple ef­fects from a video de­pict­ing four Mar­ine snipers in full com­bat gear ur­in­at­ing on the bod­ies of dead Taliban in­sur­gents, an im­age that set off wide­spread protests across Afgh­anistan when it was pub­lished on­line in 2012. The Mar­ines who ap­peared in the video pleaded guilty to a raft of charges; oth­ers re­ceived non­ju­di­cial pun­ish­ments. As For­eign Policy re­cently re­por­ted, however, an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to wheth­er seni­or of­ficers “at­temp­ted to cov­er up their own mis­con­duct while pro­sec­ut­ing war crimes in Afgh­anistan has sud­denly roared back to life.”

A top ci­vil­ian of­fi­cial, John Fitzger­ald, is now look­ing in­to wheth­er top Mar­ine brass “un­law­fully con­cealed cru­cial evid­ence in the cases.”

The Mar­ine Corps is also in­vest­ig­at­ing what’s be­hind dozens of newly sur­faced pho­tos de­pict­ing Mar­ines de­fil­ing bod­ies of dead Ir­aqi in­sur­gents. The pho­tos, ac­cord­ing to en­ter­tain­ment site TMZ, were said to have been taken in Fal­lu­jah, Ir­aq, in 2004.


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