The Navy's Going Easy On Officers In 'Fat Leonard' Scandal, Report Suggests

news

It was “perhaps the worst national-security breach of its kind to hit the Navy since the end of the Cold War, as the Washington Post put it: Leonard Glenn Francis, a 350-pound defense contractor, plied dozens of Navy and Marine personnel with prostitutes and cash to get sensitive info on their ships’ movements — info he used to snag port-service contracts and overbill the service to the tune of at least $35 million. 


So far, federal authorities have successfully prosecuted 16 service members and contractors for their roles in the “Fat Leonard” scandal.

The Navy? Not so much.

According to Marine veteran and San Diego Union-Tribune military reporter Carl Prine, the naval service’s ethics watchdog — once led by a lenient admiral who’s now the chief of naval operations — “has only one ongoing court-martial, a pair of lighter nonjudicial punishment decisions and a handful of sternly written rebukes of senior officers to show for more than three years of inquiries” related to the scandal.

Among the officers who have been disciplined by the service, punishments have been surprisingly light — a fact that some critics say highlights the easier treatment commissioned officers get from NJP and courts-martial.

“When we go to boot camp and as we’re coming up in the military, we’re told that officers and chiefs are held to a higher level, a higher standard,” Navy veteran and Truman Foundation representative Shawn VanDiver told Prine. “But time and time again, we see that that’s just not the case.”

That’s not how it was supposed to be. Shortly after the Fat Leonard scandal became public knowledge in 2013, then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus set up a “consolidated disposition authority” to address related cases not handled by civilian authorities. “The Navy does not convene a team to review cases and dispense justice (and give it a Grim Reaperesque title of “Consolidated Disposition Authority”, no less) unless…the organization expects that team to be relatively busy,” naval analyst Dr. Craig Hooper suggested after the CDA’s creation.

But Prine suggests the CDA hasn’t been that busy. A Union-Tribune analysis of CDA files, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, shows that while 200 sailors and DoD personnel were flagged for investigation in connection with the Fat Leonard case, the CDA has disciplined only 25 personnel for wrongdoing in four years with “relatively light” punishments.

Those punishments included letters of reprimand for four admirals; administrative action for six other sailors; and forfeiture of half a month’s pay for one sailor who confessed to slipping Francis the Navy Flag Roster of admirals.

In some cases, sailors who received $750-a-plate dinners and personal gifts from Francis were simply given private talking-tos by Navy higher-ups — including current CDA chief Adm. Philip Davidson and his predecessor, Adm. John Richardson, who is now the CNO. Both in Fat Leonard cases and in unrelated investigations where they had substantiated misconduct, the admirals sought leniency for the offenders for a variety of reasons, Prine’s reporting reveals.

Experts tell Prine there are plenty of reasons for why the Navy’s Fat Leonard investigations haven’t yielded more, and harsher, punishments. According to Navy spokeswoman Capt. Amy Derrick, the service is focused on cases not taken up by prosecutors, meaning there’s usually insufficient evidence or statutory basis for criminal prosecution.

Beyond that, officers can’t suffer a reduction in rank from nonjudicial punishment, and the CDA “lacks legal authority to compel officers and petty officers to reimburse the government for taking prohibited gifts,” Prine reports.

But critics say these are profound problems for a service that can’t expunge its ranks of loose-lipped backbiters and bribe-takers who shared operational details with a defense contractor simply for a little cash or companionship. The Fat Leonard case “highlights a lack of discipline across the board,” as retired Navy lawyer Lawrence Brennan told Prine.

“Tailhook was bad,” Brennan added, referring to the 1991 misconduct scandal that paralyzed the naval aviation community, but “‘Fat Leonard’ is an existential problem for the Navy because it affects the entire institution.”

U.S. Navy photo/Scott A. Thornbloom
Paul Szoldra/Task & Purpose

NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — The trial of Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher officially kicked off on Tuesday with the completion of jury selection, opening statements, and witness testimony indicating that drinking alcohol on the front lines of Mosul, Iraq in 2017 seemed to be a common occurrence for members of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon.

Government prosecutors characterized Gallagher as a knife-wielding murderer who not only killed a wounded ISIS fighter but shot indiscriminately at innocent civilians, while the defense argued that those allegations were falsehoods spread by Gallagher's angry subordinates, with attorney Tim Parlatore telling the jury that "this trial is not about murder. It's about mutiny."

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will "not to go forward with his confirmation process."

Trump said that Army Secretary Mark Esper will now serve as acting defense secretary.

Read More Show Less

The day of the Army is upon us.

Secretary of the Army Mark Esper will be taking over as Acting Secretary of Defense, President Trump announced on Tuesday, as Patrick Shanahan withdrew his nomination.

The comes just a couple of months after Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley was officially nominated to take over as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

An defense official familiar with the matter confirmed to Task & Purpose that Army Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy will "more than likely" become Acting Army Secretary — his second time in that position.

Read More Show Less

As a Medal of Honor recipient, former Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia will also be eligible for retroactive monthly pension payments stretching back to 2004.

All Medal of Honor recipients receive a pension starting on the date they formally receive the Medal of Honor, which is currently $1,329.58 per month, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

But Medal of Honor recipients are also eligible for a retroactive payment for monthly stipends that technically took effect on the "date of heroism," said Gina Jackson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Read More Show Less
(Reuters/Nick Oxford)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A unit of UK infrastructure giant Balfour Beatty plc falsified housing maintenance records at a major U.S. military base to help it maximize fees earned from the Department of Defense, a Reuters investigation found.

At Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, the company's U.S.-based unit used a second set of books and altered records to make it appear responsive to maintenance requests, Reuters found in a review of company and Air Force emails, internal memos and other documents, as well as interviews with former workers.

Read More Show Less