WASHINGTON — Three US Navy flag officers have become the highest-ranking officials thus far punished in the Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) bribery and corruption scandal, each receiving a letter of censure from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.
Rear Adms. Mike Miller, Terry Kraft and David Pimpo were all punished for conduct during the January to July 2006 deployment of the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan. Miller was the strike group commander, Kraft the carrier's commanding officer, and Pimpo the ship's supply officer on that cruise.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Navy said the three officers "were found to have improperly accepted gifts from a prohibited source, two were found to have improperly endorsed a commercial business, and one engaged in solicitation of gifts and services from a prohibited source, when they were deployed to the Seventh Fleet area of responsibility during the 2006-2007 timeframe."
The Seventh Fleet is based in the Western Pacific.
"The review," the Navy's statement continued, "concluded that these officers violated the Standards of Ethical Conduct, US Navy Regulations, and/or the Joint Ethics Regulation, demonstrating poor judgment and a failure of leadership.
"More specifically, the review concluded that the solicitation and acceptance of these gifts as well as the inappropriately familiar relationship with Mr. Leonard Glenn Francis, President and Chief Executive Officer of GDMA, cultivated an unacceptable ethical climate within the respective commands."
The letters of censure were recommended by the Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA), a Navy entity Mabus created in March 2014 to review GDMA cases passed on by the Justice Department of Justice (DoJ). In those cases, if the initial investigation detected no criminal activity but found potential ethical or code violations, evidence was turned over to the Navy for further examination.
The CDA is headed by Adm. John Richardson, head of Naval Reactors.
The cases of Miller, Kraft and Pimpo are the first to make it all the way through the Justice and CDA review processes. Asked if more judgments were imminent, a defense official said they were unaware of any. It seems inevitable, however, given the scope of the investigations, that more cases will follow.
The investigations stemmed from the wide-ranging Fat Leonard Affair, so named after the nickname of Leonard Glenn Francis, head of GDMA, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a well-known and widely-used husbanding agent throughout the Western Pacific.
A husbanding agent can take on a wide variety of tasks for visiting ships, including arranging for pilots and tugs; docking arrangements; customs and catering; dock security; taxis; and food, fuel and supplies. GDMA was one of the largest such firms in the western Pacific, with hundreds of US Navy contracts. The firm was also the primary husbanding agent for dozens of other navies operating in the region.
The Reagan's six-month 2006 Western Pacific deployment lasted from early January to early July. The Navy has not specified where the interactions with GDMA took place, but among the ports visited called at during the cruise were Singapore; Port Kelang, Malaysia; and Hong Kong — all places where GDMA was operating and could have handled the ship's husbanding chores.
All the charges against Miller, Kraft and Pimpo, a defense official confirmed, stem from conduct during the 2006 Reagan deployment.
All three officers are graduates of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. As a vice admiral, Miller served a four-year tour as superintendent of the academy, stepping down on schedule last summer, when he planned to retire. But his post-Navy career has been on hold as the investigation proceeded and, without a three-star billet or approved retirement plan, he was forced to step down to the two-star level.
Kraft, a naval aviator like Miller, took over as commander of US Naval Forces in Japan in August 2013. According to his official biography, he commanded Electronic Attack Squadron 131, the dock landing ship Shreveport, the Reagan and the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group. All four command tours included participation in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He commanded the Reagan from November 2005 to May 2008.
Pimpo assumed command of Naval Supply Weapon Systems Support last July after serving as commander of Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime, according to his biography. He is designated both a naval aviation and Surface Warfare Supply Corps officer. During his time as the Reagan's supply officer, the carrier's supply department won several awards, including the Blue E award for excellence in supply operations.
Pimpo already has been investigated for ethics violations. As reported in February 2014 by the Washington Post, he and two other admirals were rebuked by the Navy for an April 2012 trip to London, England, that a whistleblower charged was less work than pleasure. A Navy inspector general agreed there were questionable aspects to the trip, including staying in expensive London hotels and taking unnecessarily expensive flights. Nevertheless Pimpo, who had been selected for flag rank at the time of the trip, was allowed to put on his star.
Here is the full text of the Navy's message released late Tuesday:
"SECNAV Censures Three Senior Officers
"(NNS) Washington, DC — Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has issued Secretarial Letters of Censure to three senior officers following a thorough review into their interactions with Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) in the 2006-2007 timeframe. GDMA is the subject of a federal fraud and bribery investigation which was initiated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
"Mabus directed the appointment of a Consolidated Disposition Authority in March 2014 to act as an independent authority to review GDMA cases forwarded by the Department of Justice to the Navy for administrative action. The purpose of the CDA, in this case headed by Admiral John Richardson, is to ensure that individuals are held appropriately accountable when less than criminal allegations are substantiated.
" 'All Navy officers, particularly our senior leadership in positions of unique trust and responsibility, must uphold and be held to the highest standards of personal and professional behavior. After reviewing the findings and recommendations of the CDA, I decided that these three officers, whose actions were revealed during the GDMA investigation demonstrated poor judgment and a failure of leadership in prior tours," said Mabus.
"To document their leadership failure, Mabus issued Secretarial Letters of Censure to:
- Rear Adm. Michael Miller, then-Commander, Carrier Strike Group 7 embarked on USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Miller is currently serving as a special assistant to the Superintendent of the US Naval Academy.
-Rear Adm. Terry Kraft, then-Commanding Officer, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Kraft is currently serving as Commander, US Naval Forces Japan and Commander, Navy Region Japan.
-Rear Adm. David Pimpo, then-supply officer of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Pimpo is currently serving as Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Weapon Systems Support.
"Kraft and Pimpo have since submitted requests to retire. The Navy will now process these two retirement requests and the previously submitted retirement request from Miller.
" 'Censure was both necessary and appropriate," said Mabus. "I have now received the retirement requests of all three officers, and we will process them appropriately."
"These three officers were found to have improperly accepted gifts from a prohibited source, two were found to have improperly endorsed a commercial business, and one engaged in solicitation of gifts and services from a prohibited source, when they were deployed to the Seventh Fleet area of responsibility during the 2006-2007 timeframe.
"The review concluded that these officers violated the Standards of Ethical Conduct, U.S. Navy Regulations, and/or the Joint Ethics Regulation, demonstrating poor judgment and a failure of leadership. More specifically, the review concluded that the solicitation and acceptance of these gifts as well as the inappropriately familiar relationship with Mr. Leonard Glenn Francis, President and Chief Executive Officer of GDMA, cultivated an unacceptable ethical climate within the respective commands.
"Kraft will be replaced by Rear Adm. Matthew J. Carter and Pimpo will be replaced by Rear Adm. Paul J. Verrastro.
"The GDMA investigation continues by NCIS and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS). The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California in San Diego and the Department of Justice Criminal Division in Washington, D.C. are leading the prosecution. It is anticipated that they will refer additional cases to the Navy for review and disposition. The Navy will review these matters and take appropriate action. The time of completion is unknown, but it is expected that this process will continue for some time."