Situation Report

Why DOD investigators are finding more wrongdoing among senior officers

Why DOD investigators are finding more wrongdoing among senior officers

Deadlines, deadlines. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has until tomorrow to send the White House the review of ethics standards among senior officers recently completed by his top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey. A senior defense official tells Situation Report that Panetta has not yet reviewed it but will soon. Panetta’s call for the review emerged in the aftermath of the scandal that forced the resignation of retired Gen. David Petraeus from the CIA and put on hold the promotion of ISAF commander Gen. John Allen. But the Pentagon insisted Panetta was thinking of conducting the review long before the scandal broke. Here’s partly why:

Pentagon investigators are finding more wrongdoing among senior officers. Investigators at the DOD inspector general’s office have seen a rise in the number of investigations against senior officers, typically three- and four-stars (as well as many top civilians) since 2007 – as well as the rate of investigations that actually find that they did something wrong. And the so-called substantiation rate — meaning that investigators found at least one allegation to be substantiated — rose from 21 percent in fiscal 2007 to as high as 52 percent in fiscal 2010. In fiscal 2011, it was 39 percent. The number of actual cases only went up a little bit between fiscal 2007 and 2011 – 33 in 2007 to 38 in 2011, for a total number of 155 cases investigated over that period. But it is the substantiation rate for each year that took DoD officials by surprise.

"Over the period of years since July 2008, there has been a gradual increase in the number of allegations that were coming in for misconduct," a former senior defense official familiar with the investigations told Situation Report. "Clearly this was going up, [the DOD IG] was getting more." Moreover, the number of allegations against four-star officers in high-profile positions was on the rise, too, the official said. This did not go unnoticed by then Defense Secretary Bob Gates or, after he arrived, Panetta. Asked what might be behind the rise, the former senior official told Situation Report that often it was a lapse in knowing the rules, or common sense, or just bad bookkeeping.

There have been some cases, the official said, in which general or flag officers simply got too big for their britches: "There are people who actually believe that ‘gee, I’m so big, that nobody can touch me.’"

Continued below.

FP partied hard last night with "global thinkers," politicos, foreign policy nerds, and about 300 of its closest friends at a schwank party at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington. Adm. Bill McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, named by FP as one of its "Top 100 Global Thinkers" was there and led an informal discussion in one of the conversation pits over tasty but unidentifiable chocolate pods. Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at FP’s "Transformational Trends" event at the Newseum, co-sponsored by the State Department’s Office of Policy Planning.

The Cable’s Josh Rogin covered Hillary’s speech: http://bit.ly/JyqV

FP’s Global Thinkers: http://bit.ly/eVJVeg

Welcome to Friday’s edition of Situation Report where our hat is off to party planners everywhere but especially those at FP for putting on such a lively one. Apologies to the one hostess who had to clean up a broken dish — even if we weren’t the ones to make the mess. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. And sign up for Situation Report here: http://bit.ly/NCN9uN or just send me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list.

What Leon Panetta wrote on the photo he gave to Ehud Barak yesterday at the Pentagon: "To my friend Ehud – With deepest thanks and appreciation for your friendship and leadership in building a strong military to military relationship between the united states and israel– working together, we have kept our countries safe and our people secure. Regards, Leon Panetta."

How about a Hispanic in Obama’s cabinet? Still unclear if Susan Rice gets the nod for SecState. Meanwhile, if there was one takeaway from the election — and certainly the GOP is considering this carefully — it is the rising influence of the Hispanic vote in American politics. So a friend of Situation Report and former government official wrote yesterday to say the Obama administration needs to be "saved from themselves": "Didn’t the election highlight the need to appoint at least one more Hispanic to the cabinet? Why not Maria Otero as SecState?" Otero is now the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights at State. The former official also suggests: John Hamre to the Pentagon, Chuck Hagel to CIA, and former Pentagon policy chief and Obama surrogate Michele Flournoy? "Flournoy to SecArmy — she needs that before she ascends to the top job." And don’t forget about Richard Danzig: "He’s the one with the brainpower," the former official said.

Otero’s wiki-bio: http://bit.ly/IYLIFl

Clarification-ito: Dempsey and his foreign policy adviser, Joe Donovan, attended the same high school in Goshen, N.Y. at the same time, but they were one year apart. They did, however, run track together.

Could Jeh Johnson be tapped? The Pentagon’s top lawyer might be asked to follow Eric Holder as attorney general, reports the E-Ring’s Kevin Baron. "Folks at the Pentagon would love to see him stick around, but they also realize that he might be tapped for any number of roles in the second term. He’s on anybody’s short list for attorney general, for starters," a senior administration official told Kevin. "The sky is basically the limit for someone with his experience and reputation. He’s the consummate straight shooter and everyone loves working with — and for — him. That’s not exactly a mix of skills and traits that a lot of people have in Washington these days." http://bit.ly/ToRsgC

Navy public affairs officers just got some new required reading: A Forbes magazine piece published last week on "How David Petraeus Mastered the Media" by Willy Stern. Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby sent a link to the story to the entire Navy public affairs community of about 2,500 PAOs (plus retirees). The story says a number of things, including that top officers should ignore their PAOs, build relationships with the press on their own, and go to off-the-record lunches to cultivate reporters — without their public affairs officers.

Forbes piece: http://onforb.es/QotxSs

Kirby, the former senior public affairs officer to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent the link to the story with a long note about how he sees the military, the media, and the job of public affairs officers.

"In my view, commanders and PAOs both need to improve.  We need to trust each other more. We need to challenge each other more. And we need to make each other better at our individual responsibilities.

As his Special Assistant for Public Affairs, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs trusted me to provide him the context he needed when dealing with the press. And I trusted him to use that context wisely. He never went behind my back to communicate with a member of the media. And I never stood in his way to have that communication when it was the right thing to do. We kept each other informed, always. I can’t remember too many times, when a reporter wanted to know what Adm. Mullen was thinking, that I had to go to him and ask. I already knew, because he made sure I knew.

That’s really the key and the one thing Mr. Stern seems not to understand. If the commander and the PAO have access to one another and to one another’s thinking — if they talk freely and unreservedly with each other — relations with the media will flow naturally and appropriately from both individuals. It need not be one or the other. It need not be a shell game or the sort of Machiavellian pursuit Mr. Stern seems to prefer. It should be a team effort, just like everything else we do in the military."

Investigations against senior officers, con’t.

"Sometimes, in my opinion, these officers had every intention to always do everything right, but they became so focused on the mission or what they were doing that the issue of crossing the line of misconduct, I think it wasn’t always on their minds," the former defense senior official told Situation Report. "But sometimes, they would push the envelope. These are aggressive, highly-talented individuals, that’s how they got to where they are, and sometimes, they would push the envelope beyond what they even realized."

Not lost on anybody is the fear that in some cases, no one around a four-star or even a three-star officer will speak truth to power if they see something that might be wrong, the former official said.

By 2010, by the way, the number of DoD IG investigators was increased by half to keep up with the demand and to attempt to accelerate the length of the DoD IG investigations, which are notoriously long.

The More You Know: The DOD inspector general in the first half of 2012: the DOD IG completed 142 cases against senior officials (officers and civilians), dismissed 130 of them, investigated 12, and substantiated three. Across the services, for the first half of 2012:

Army: DOD IG completed 53 cases, dismissed 49, investigated those four, and of those, substantiated one.

Navy: DOD IG completed 16 cases, dismissed 15, investigated one but failed to substantiate it.

Air Force: DOD IG completed 20 cases, dismissed 18, investigated those two, and substantiated only one of them.

Marine Corps: DOD IG completed one case and dismissed it.

Noting