WASHINGTON Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has demoted the former head of U.S. Africa Command who was accused of spending thousands of dollars on lavish travel and other unauthorized expenses, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.
Panetta stripped Gen. William E. Kip Ward of a star, which means he now will retire as a three-star lieutenant general despite arguments from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff against the demotion. Ward also has been ordered to repay the government $82,000.
Ward served as the commander of Fort Drums 2nd Brigade Combat Team from July 1992 to June 1994. An image of him sits in the posts division headquarters, in the buildings summit room. The room, which hosts meetings and teleconferences, features photos of other soldiers who have served with the division who have gone on to attain the four-star rank.
Post spokeswoman Julie A. Cupernall said Tuesday afternoon that she was not aware of any discussions to take down the image.
The demotion comes as retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus resigned as CIA director because of an extramarital affair and Marine Gen. John R. Allen is being investigated for potentially improper communications with a woman.
According to the official, Panetta reviewed the Ward matter and concluded that the wrongdoing found by the Defense Department inspector general, in a report released earlier this year, demanded accountability.
In a statement issued Tuesday, a spokesman for Ward said the general has never been motivated by personal gain and fulfilled each and every mission assigned to him and served his country and the men and women assigned to his commands with distinction.
The spokesman, Chris Garrett, added that, While General Ward is not perfect, he has always been guided by his faith in God and the belief that there is no greater honor as a patriot than to lead those who choose to serve our nation in the armed forces.
Retiring as a three-star will cost Ward about $30,000 a year in retirement pay giving him close to $208,802 a year rather than the $236,650 he would have received with four stars.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged Panetta to allow Ward to retire at his full four-star general rank, according to defense officials.
The inspector generals report found that Ward used military vehicles to shuttle his wife on shopping trips and to a spa and billed the government for a refueling stop overnight in Bermuda, where the couple stayed in a $750 suite. The report detailed lengthy stays at lavish hotels for Ward, his wife and his staff members, and the use of five-vehicle motorcades when he traveled to Washington.
Times staff writer Gordon Block contributed to this report.