Two ad­mi­rals sus­pended in mil­i­tary crack­down

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY KRISTINA WONG

The Navy has sus­pended two ad­mi­rals in a broad­en­ing bribery scan­dal that al­ready has en­snared three se­nior naval of­fi­cials.

In­volv­ing charges of prostitution and pay­offs, the scan­dal is the U.S. mil­i­tary’s high­est-pro­file case of of­fi­cer mis­con­duct this year — part of a trend that has caused deep con­cern among Pen­tagon of­fi­cials. The num­ber of sub­stan­ti­ated cases of mis­con­duct has in­creased steadily since 2008, ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics by the De­fense Depart­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral.

The Navy is in­ves­ti­gat­ing Vice Adm. Ted Branch, di­rec­tor of naval in­tel­li­gence, and Rear Adm. Bruce Love­less, di­rec­tor of in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions, on ac­cu­sa­tions of “il­le­gal and im­proper re­la­tions” with a de­fense con­trac­tor who scammed the Navy of mil­lions of dol­lars and bribed naval of­fi­cials with hook­ers and gifts over sev­eral years.

Nei­ther ad­mi­ral has been charged with a crime or vi­o­la­tion, but the Navy said the ac­cu­sa­tions against them in­volve “in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­duct prior to their cur­rent as­sign­ments and flag of­fi­cer rank.”

So far, three Navy of­fi­cials have been ar­rested and charged with giv­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion to Malaysian de­fense con­trac­tor Leonard Glenn Fran­cis in ex­change for con­cert tick­ets, pros­ti­tutes and other il­licit gifts.

The con­trac­tor’s com­pany, Glenn De­fense Ma­rine Asia Ltd., ser­viced naval ships in South­east Asia, and the clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion helped him win Navy con­tracts worth hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars. The in­for­ma­tion in­cluded ship move­ments and sched­uled port vis­its, and data about in­ter­nal Navy in­ves­ti­ga­tions of the com­pany.

The three Navy of­fi­cials are Cm­drs. Jose Luis Sanchez and Michael Van­nak Khem Misiewicz, and naval crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tor John Ber­trand Be­liv­eau II. Mr. Fran­cis also has been ar­rested, along with com­pany ex­ec­u­tive Alex Wisidagama, of Sin­ga­pore.

Cmdr. Misiewicz, Mr. Fran­cis and Mr. Be­liv­eau’s at­tor­ney ap­peared for a rou­tine hear­ing Fri­day in U.S. Dis­trict Court in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. The next court date is sched­uled for Feb. 28.

The bribery scan­dal is un­fold­ing amid a Pen­tagon ef­fort to in­still and en­force high stan­dards of con­duct among se­nior of­fi­cers — and to hold them ac­count­able for vi­o­lat­ing those stan­dards. The ef­fort’s suc­cess is de­bat­able.

Ac­cord­ing to the Pen­tagon in­spec­tor gen­eral, 294 cases of of­fi­cer mis­con­duct were in­ves­ti­gated and 40 were ver­i­fied in 2008 — a sub­stan­ti­a­tion rate of 14 per­cent. In 2012, 83 of 321 in­ves­ti­gated cases were ver­i­fied — a sub­stan­ti­a­tion rate of 26 per­cent.

So far this year, 277 cases have been in­ves­ti­gated and 95 ver­i­fied — a sub­stan­ti­a­tion rate of 34 per­cent.

Crim­i­nal con­vic­tions un­der the mil­i­tary jus­tice sys­tem in­creased from 615 in 2008 to 731 in 2011, and dipped to 656 in 2012. The sta­tis­tics do not in­clude con­vic­tions in civil­ian courts or cases in which non­ju­di­cial pun­ish­ment was ad­min­is­tered.

The mil­i­tary’s han­dling of mis­con­duct has been un­der fire amid an in­crease in re­ports of sex­ual as­saults in the ranks. Re­ports of sex­ual as­saults rose by 46 per­cent last fis­cal year, the Pen­tagon an­nounced last week.

Restor­ing the mil­i­tary’s ethics and pro­fes­sion­al­ism has been a top goal of Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But no ma­jor ini­tia­tives have been an­nounced since a re­view of ethics train­ing for se­nior of­fi­cers last Novem­ber that found such train­ing should be­gin ear­lier in an of­fi­cer’s ca­reer.

“It re­mains a pri­or­ity for the chair­man, and we’ll con­tinue to work this is­sue very hard,” Pen­tagon press sec­re­tary Ge­orge Lit­tle said. “We’re trou­bled by the al­le­ga­tions sur­round­ing what’s been re­ported with re­spect to Navy of­fi­cers, and we need to con­tinue to grap­ple with this is­sue [of mis­con­duct].”

Martin L. Cook, pro­fes­sor of lead­er­ship and ethics at the Naval War Col­lege, said he thinks the grow­ing num­ber of eth­i­cal vi­o­la­tions stems from Bathsheba syn­drome, in which se­nior of­fi­cers be­gin to abuse the priv­i­leges that come with their suc­cess.

“Se­nior of­fi­cers have been suc­cess­ful for so long, they take it for granted and de­velop in­flated senses of ego,” he said.

Steven Ol­son, an ethics pro­fes­sor at Ge­or­gia State Univer­sity and co-founder of the Center for Ethics and Cor­po­rate Re­spon­si­bil­ity, said the type of un­eth­i­cal be­hav­ior ex­hib­ited in the bribery case usu­ally hap­pens when spend­ing goes unchecked.

“In big buildups, the au­dit func­tion tends to weaken and there be­comes more ten­dency to en­gage in those [ini­tial] be­hav­iors that even­tu­ally end up in ma­jor fraud,” said Mr. Ol­son, who leads busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives through a mil­i­tary ethics class at the Ma­rine Corps base at Quan­tico, Va.

“You see this in busi­ness when things are re­ally boom­ing,” he said. “When there’s a lot of money flow­ing through, it’s hard to keep track of it all, and that’s when peo­ple typ­i­cally en­gage in fraud. They know the level that will be checked, and they do things just be­low that level.”

Mr. Cook said the prob­lem could worsen as the mil­i­tary cur­tails train­ing be­cause of bud­get cuts.

A course that in­cludes ethics train­ing for new one-star gen­er­als has been can­celed or cur­tailed twice this year be­cause of bud­get cuts and the par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down in Oc­to­ber.

The Joint Chiefs’ cap­stone course, which re­quires se­nior of­fi­cers from across the coun­try to spend five con­sec­u­tive weeks train­ing to­gether, is man­dated by the 1986 Gold­wa­ter-Ni­chols Act, but the shut­down forced all of those who were trav­el­ing to re­turn home.

“You need to con­stantly re-prime the im­por­tance of ethics, of stan­dards, and the brain will re­mem­ber what’s been most re­cently taught,” Mr. Ol­son said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS

Vice Adm. Ted Branch, di­rec­tor of naval in­tel­li­gence, (above), and Rear Adm. Bruce F. Love­less, di­rec­tor of in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions (left), are on tem­po­rary leave fol­low­ing sus­pen­sion of their clas­si­fied ma­te­rial ac­cess in con­nec­tion with a mas­sive bribery scheme in Asia in­volv­ing pros­ti­tutes and lux­ury travel.

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