Violet: When generals become kings

Violet: When generals become kings


As you all know, General David Petraeus is in hot water, at least with his wife, because of his extramarital affair. He should be in trouble for far more. Where was the intelligence before the Benghazi attack? After all, the CIA which he headed is supposed to ward off attacks by superior intel. He got a pass on answering questions as to why the attack could not have been prevented.

His lifestyle, with a 28-car entourage accompanying him to parties, was clearly the mark of a man who has a high opinion of himself. This extravagance bespeaks somebody who values ego over moderation. He, however, is not the only general who is out of control. General William “Kip” Ward used military vehicles to shuttle his wife on shopping trips. He was demoted for spending thousands of dollars on unauthorized lavish travel.

The average pension for retired generals is around $230,000 per year, plus medical and other perks.

The biggest scandal involving generals, however, is the revolving door wherein they go to work as consultants for mega-corporations who have military contracts. Often receiving fees of $750,000-plus per year, they lobby the underlings now in positions to which they were appointed by these same generals who served as their “mentors.” Studies have been done that reveal that munitions and equipment from tanks to fighter planes to missile systems were sold to the Pentagon in multimillion dollar contracts spearheaded by former generals notwithstanding the fact that the products were obsolete. Simply stated, taxpayer money was used to purchase redundant armaments in order to placate generals who were former bosses of those authorizing the purchases even though there was no need for them.

Up until fairly recently, these generals also received as much as $440 per hour as “advisors.” They did not disclose nor did they have to acknowledge to the Pentagon that they were in de facto conflicts of interest when they were recommending the signing of these contracts with firms that also had hired them to protect the companies’ interests. Defense Secretary Robert Gates capped the “advisors” pay at $179,000. So, add it up. Pensions of $230,000 per year or more, $750,000 consultant fees and $179,000 as “advisors” — without any disclosure of outside employment. Makes for a healthy retirement.

Defense Secretary Gates last year earned the ire of the retired generals when he required the “advisors” to disclose their business ties as a condition of continuing as consultants with the Pentagon and divisions like the Central Command. USA Today identified 158 Pentagon retirees from all branches of the service who were offering advice on war plans and weapons systems. At least seven ended their advisory role rather than divulge outside income in order to avoid a conflict of interest. The article traced at least $4 billion to companies wherein the generals (and admirals) “brought home the bacon.”

Generals should never be allowed into contracting situations with contracting officers who were once their subordinates. Stopping this insidious practice is necessary to restore the integrity to the procurement process. It’s a shame that once honorable men don’t value their reputation more. Their recruitment well before they even retire raises questions about their independence and judgment while still in uniform. It also raises questions as to whom they really are serving and it doesn’t look like it’s the USA. These transgressions are far more serious that General Petraeus’ tryst.