News / USA

    Scandals Raise Questions Across US Military

    US Armed Forces Besieged by Corruption Scandalsi
    X
    February 11, 2014 9:58 PM
    A series of corruption scandals at the Pentagon recently has prompted Congressional hearings and an announcement by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to take corrective actions. Details from VOA’s Jeffrey Young.
    The Pentagon is embroiled in a series of corruption scandals that span the globe and have rocked the Navy, Air Force, and Army National Guard.  Both sides of Congress are holding hearings into the matters.  But the number of scandals is raising questions about a lack of accountability across the U.S. military that many say is unprecedented. 
     
    The Navy is dealing with a bribery scandal involving a Singapore-based company that investigators say bought the illicit help of a group of naval officers with cash, lavish trips, and prostitutes. In another investigation, Air Force and Navy officers allegedly cheated on proficiency exams that dealt with nuclear missile launch codes and nuclear propulsion systems.  The Army’s National Guard is also dealing with an alleged scam involving cash improperly taken for getting people to enlist.
     
    “You start to wonder if we need to get a little more discipline here, if nothing else than to send a clear message that this kind of stuff needs to be rooted out – and whatever oversight laxity might be happening is not tolerable or sustainable,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution in Washington.
     
    The situation has prompted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to announce last Friday that he will appoint a senior general to review the Pentagon’s ethics standards and implement changes meant to ensure proper behavior. 

    “Competence and character…are woven together. They must be.” Hagel said.  ”And, an uncompromising culture of accountability must exist at every level of command.”
     
    The U.S. House of Representatives in Congress announced that a key committee on government oversight, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa will hold hearings into the alleged scandal involving Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a contractor with the U.S. Navy. The head of that company, Malaysian national Leonard Glenn Francis, has been arrested on bribery related charges. So have several Navy officers.
     
    One of them is Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz.  Born in Cambodia, he came to the United States as a child refugee, and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. He was given command of a guided missile destroyer, the USS Mustin, which he sailed in December 2010 to Sihanoukville, Cambodia in a triumphant return to his native land.  Later, he became a logistics officer for the Navy’s 7th Fleet, which covers the Pacific.
     
    Misiewicz and another logistics officer, Commander Jose Luis Sanchez, are accused of providing internal information to Leonard Francis and GDMA on ship movements and port calls.  Prosecutors say they steered ships to ports where GDMA had facilities so that the company could grossly overcharge the Navy for fuel and other services. In return, Francis rewarded them with money, trips, and the services of prostitutes.
     
    Also snared by the Navy’s probe into GDMA was one of its own investigators – Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agent John Beliveau II.  He has already entered a guilty plea of providing Francis with internal NCIS documents – ostensibly to help Francis stay one step ahead of investigators.  Commanders Misiewicz and Sanchez have entered “not guilty” pleas and are awaiting further court action.
     
    The Navy is also embroiled in an alleged scandal involving its famed “SEAL Team Six.”
     
    Acting Navy Undersecretary Robert Martinage was asked to resign in mid-January after investigators found that the brother of a senior Navy intelligence official had manufactured weapons silencers for the SEALS at a cost of $8,000 – for which the military was billed $1.6 million.
     
    The Congress too has been holding hearings into an alleged scheme in which people improperly collected money – possibly up to $66 million – for getting young men and women to sign up for the National Guard.  Investigators say that recruiters and others not eligible to receive the bonuses used proxies and other schemes to collect the cash and share it with them. 
     
    “It is disappointing that people who wore the uniform saw a way to get one over on the government, and they did,” said U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, who is leading hearings into the matter.
     
    Brookings analyst O’Hanlon said the Congressional hearings can serve as a prod to get the Pentagon back on the right track.
     
    “You know, they [the hearings] can scare people into better behavior – they can put some pressure on the Pentagon to do more than just discipline the ten or twenty bad apples that were specifically involved, “ he said. “But, if there is a more general problem of organizational rot or decline of standards, they can hold people accountable, and force the broader military services or the Department of Defense to relieve people at a higher level of command, potentially, if that seems appropriate.” 
     
    O’Hanlon said there are broader concerns about the proficiency exam cheating scandals that have implicated at least 92  Air Force nuclear ICBM launch control officers and more than 30 Navy personnel connected to nuclear propulsion systems.
     
    Those entrusted with America’s nuclear arsenal – and its nuclear systems – are held to extremely high standards with periodic exams to prove that they know precisely what they are trained to do.  And the pressures to pass those tests allegedly prompted those accused to share questions and answers.
     
    “You can’t be lax with nuclear weapons,” said O’Hanlon. These things [such as cheating on nuclear proficiency tests] erode the nation’s safety and security, and over time, can damage that very fabric of the armed forces.” He added “You’ve got to stop them now, before it gets worse.”

    Jeffrey Young

    Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.