Demoted: Ward stripped of fourth-star

In yet another scandal involving the military’s top brass this week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has decided to demote Gen. William “Kip” Ward, the former four-star Africa Command commander whose 2011 retirement was derailed over allegations of extravagant spending on perks and travel. Ward will retire as a three-star lieutenant general and has been informed ...

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

In yet another scandal involving the military's top brass this week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has decided to demote Gen. William “Kip” Ward, the former four-star Africa Command commander whose 2011 retirement was derailed over allegations of extravagant spending on perks and travel.

In yet another scandal involving the military’s top brass this week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has decided to demote Gen. William “Kip” Ward, the former four-star Africa Command commander whose 2011 retirement was derailed over allegations of extravagant spending on perks and travel.

Ward will retire as a three-star lieutenant general and has been informed by the Army he will be forced to pay back $82,000. The news leaked out of the Pentagon at time allowing it to fly well under the radar of the admitted sexual affair of retired Gen. David Petraeus and alleged extramarital "flirtations" involving Afghanistan war commander Gen. John Allen.

The move rejects the recommendation of Gen. Marty Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who according to the Associated Press thought that Ward should be able to retire at the four-star level. Defense officials would not confirm the report. But if true, it appears in retiring Ward at the three-star level, that Panetta essentially ignored his chairman’s recommendation.

Ward has been working in Washington as a “special assistant” to the vice chief of staff of the Army, former Iraq war commander Gen. Lloyd Austin. A Pentagon spokesman said that DOD is expected to release a statement by Panetta, who is traveling in Asia, later Tuesday making Ward’s demotion effective immediately.

Ward likely will move into “terminal retirement,” the period when servicemembers have completed their official duties but are still being out-processed before separating from the military.

A Government Accountability Office report in August found Ward and his family members had used military vehicles for personal errands, and charged taxpayers for a $10,000 overnight stop in Bermuda for his staff, including a $750 hotel suite, and other trips.

Ward, who left the Africom job before the investigation against him was begun, has been serving in what some call “general officer purgatory” as a two-star as he awaited the outcome of the DOD Inspector General’s investigation and the Army and Defense secretaries’ decision on how he would retire.

Within the military, the highest permanent grade to which general officers are promoted is to the two-star level. Three- and four-star ranks are job-specific, meaning those promotions are uniquely tied to those jobs. When Ward was investigated, he automatically was dropped to the two-star level since he was already out of the job. As such, Panetta had the option to retire Ward at the two-star, three-star or four-star levels.

“My impression of Leon Panetta is that he believes very strongly in accountability and that there are consequences for one’s actions,” said a senior defense official. “In this particular case, I think there needed to be consequences for the actions and the misjudgments that took place during [Ward’s] tenure as Africom commander.”

Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge. Twitter: @FPBaron

Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children. Twitter: @glubold

More from Foreign Policy

Newspapers in Tehran feature on their front page news about the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, signed in Beijing the previous day, on March, 11 2023.
Newspapers in Tehran feature on their front page news about the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, signed in Beijing the previous day, on March, 11 2023.

Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America

The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.

Austin and Gallant stand at podiums side by side next to each others' national flags.
Austin and Gallant stand at podiums side by side next to each others' national flags.

The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense

If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.

Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the Moscow Kremlin Wall in the Alexander Garden during an event marking Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the Moscow Kremlin Wall in the Alexander Garden during an event marking Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow.

Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War

Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.

An Iranian man holds a newspaper reporting the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, in Tehran on March 11.
An Iranian man holds a newspaper reporting the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, in Tehran on March 11.

How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests

And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.