The massive U.S. Navy scandal involving an East-Asia Pacific ship supply contractor and its convicted chief executive has now reached up into the admiral’s ranks. And the probe is far from over.
Three admirals were censured this month by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, effectively ending their careers, in the wake of the Glenn Defense Marine Asia “bribes-for-business” scandal.
The scandal, primarily involving the U.S. Seventh Fleet, has spread like an oil stain through the admiral’s ranks.
Defense News quotes defense officials as saying as many as three dozen admirals are under a federal probe for their role in a Singapore-headquartered ship “husbanding” corporation.
The contractor’s work for the U.S. Navy involved tending to and supplying warships upon arrival in various East Asian ports. That included fueling non-nuclear vessels, provisioning both for supplies and crew needs.
Glenn Defense Marine Asia
The investigation has centered on Glenn Defense Marine Asia chief Leonard Francis who allegedly offered enticements to choose his company’s bids.
Federal proceedings against Francis outlined gifts to Navy senior officers that included more than $500,000 in cash bribes, prostitute services costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, a similar sum spent on lavish travel junkets for Navy brass, and even gifts such as ornamental swords and prohibited Cuban cigars.
According to the Naval investigation, he was given detailed information regarding ship deployments so his facilities would be ready to bid on servicing them upon arrival.
Francis pled guilty to bribery and related federal charges on January 15. Also entering a guilty plea then was Navy Captain Daniel Dusek, who allegedly took bribes and a wide range of favors from Francis in exchange for allowing fraudulent invoices to be paid.
Secretary Mabus censured officers Terry Kraft, Michael Miller and David Pimpo over their roles in the scandal.
"These three officers, whose actions were revealed during the GDMA investigation, demonstrated poor judgment and a failure of leadership in prior tours," Mabus said in a statement.
The letters "ensure that individuals are held appropriately accountable when less than criminal allegations are substantiated," he said.
Miller, Kraft and Pimpo were aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during its Western Pacific deployment from mid-January to mid-July 2006.
During that deployment, the carrier group visited Singapore, Port Kelang, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. All three seaports are places where GDMA has major operations.
“These three officers were found to have improperly accepted gifts from a prohibited source [GDMA], two were found to have improperly endorsed a commercial business [GDMA], and one engaged in solicitation of gifts and services from a prohibited source when they were deployed to the Seventh Fleet area of responsibility during … 2006-2007,” the Navy said.
Along with forfeiting some $35 million, Francis is also cooperating with prosecutors.
That, according to the Navy Times, is rattling Naval ranks.
“With Leonard cooperating, for senior admirals -- and there are a whole [number] of them who went through the Seventh Fleet and had dealings with GDMA -- they are sweating like hostages to see what [Francis] will say about them,” one retired Navy officer told the publication.
University of Baltimore law professor Charles Tiefler, who was a member of the U.S. Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, told The New York Times that the scandal will likely deepen.
“With Leonard Francis as a cooperating witness, the prosecutors may be able to go after Navy officers as high, or even higher, than they have gone after so far,” Tiefler said.
Postings and promotions affected
Defense News points out the scandal is also impacting the Navy’s established system of postings and promotions. While officers may be removed from their posts because of the investigations, they continue to hold their rank. As a result, junior officers are held back from upward promotions, Defense News said.
The three censured officers are reportedly seeking to retire.
But for senior Naval officers ensnared in the corruption probe, retirements cannot take place until actions concerning them are resolved, according to media reports. Because of that, the officers under investigation are removed from their commands but given no other assignments as they await the outcome of probes.
“It becomes a lot more complicated to deal with folks once they’re outside the military,” an official told Defense News. “The ability to handle it is a lot easier keeping them in uniform.”