A four-star Army general is under investigation for allegedly misusing hundreds of thousands of government dollars on travel, hotels and other unauthorized expense, Defense Department officials said Wednesday.
The general has been identified as William “Kip” Ward, the first leader of the U.S. Africa Command.
Among the allegations are that Gen. Ward allowed family members and other unauthorized people to fly on government planes and that he spent excessive amounts of taxpayer dollars on hotel rooms, transportation and other expenses when he traveled as head of the Africa Command.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to decide on Ward’s military future following the release of a Defense Department inspector general’s report, which is now under legal review and is expected to be out within the next couple of weeks.
Panetta could demote Ward before he is allowed to retire, effectively forcing him to retire at a lower rank and reducing his benefits.
Because Ward’s alleged offenses occurred while he was a four-star general, he could be forced to retire as a three-star, which officials said could cost him as much as $1 million in retirement pay and overtime. It was not immediately clear whether Ward also could face criminal charges or whether he will be fined.
Service members can retire only at the rank at which they served honorably, and a four-star general is the highest rank in the Army.
The inspector general’s investigation lasted about 17 months. Ward did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment.
While the exact amount of alleged misspending was not disclosed, the estimated total raises comparisons with the $823,000 allegedly spent by dozens of employees of the General Services Administration, who were accused of lavish spending during an October 2010 conference at a Las Vegas resort.
Panetta’s options regarding Ward are limited by complex laws and military guidelines.