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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs