U.S. Army Four-Star Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward, the first leader of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), is facing the prospects of demotion following a lengthy investigation of allegations of excessive overspending and other financial improprieties, including inappropriate travel expenses, according to the Associated Press and CNN.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta received findings from the Defense Department’s inspector general this week and is expected to rule soon on Ward, a Morgan State University graduate and one of only five African Americans in history to reach the rank of a four star general, among the Army’s highest ranks, CNN said.
The action comes 15 months after he retired following a 40-year career that began when he graduated from Morgan with a bachelor’s degree and was capped by a three and a half-year tour as the first leader of AFRICOM, a military unit created in 2007 to monitor threats to U.S. national security in Africa.
The inspector general’s report is said to detail a history of overspending by Ward that includes what the network characterized as government funds misuse, “extravagant and unacceptable” expense charges and inappropriate use of military staff.
According to the AP, the investigation of Ward covered 17 months and examined what the wire service said was hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on “lavish hotels, travel and other items.”
The Huffington Post said Ward’s spending covered hundreds of thousands of dollars applied to travel on government airplanes for unauthorized people, including family members, and for travel and hotel accommodations incidental to his role as leader of the Army command on the vast continent.
Panetta could reduce Ward to a two-star general, an action that could trim $1 million from the flag-rank officer’s pension. Since a lavish retirement ceremony for him in April 2011, Ward has been serving as a special assistant to the vice chief of the Army, a position often used as a holding area for flag-rank officers who are being promoted or demoted.
Ward’s awards and badges include: the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters), the Legion of Merit (with three Oak Leaf Clusters), the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with six Oak Leaf Clusters), the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal (with three Oak Leaf Clusters), the Army Achievement Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the Master Parachutist Badge.
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