Military Times

Pentagon was soft on troops who misused official credit cards at casinos, strip clubs, IG report finds

The Defense Department's inspector general issued a scathing report Tuesday criticizing the Pentagon's bureaucracy for turning a blind eye to improper use of government credit cards at casinos and strip clubs. 

The IG's latest report comes more than a year after a previous probe found widespread misuse of government-issued credit cards, including 5,000 improper charges at strip clubs and casinos totaling more than $1 million. 

The IG followed up that report and found that in many cases those individuals improperly sought and received reimbursement from taxpayers and in some instances the credit card misuse was more far-reaching than initially thought. 

"DoD management did not take appropriate action when notified that cardholders potentially misused their travel card at casinos and adult entertainment establishments," the IG wrote in a letter to top Pentagon officials, according to the report released Tuesday.

The IG's latest probe took a close look at 30 individual service members and civilians flagged for credit card misuse in the initial investigation to determine how the Pentagon bureaucracy had responded. 

The follow-up report found that military officials often took little or no action despite the public release of the IG report last year, widespread media coverage and official promises from Pentagon officials that they would look into the matter.

Many lower-level bureaucrats "in some cases, did not perform any review after we notified them that the cardholders potentially misused their travel card at casinos or adult entertainment establishments," according to the report. 

For example, the initial IG probe last year identified an Army lieutenant colonel with 10 questionable casino charges totaling more than $2,200. The officer told a Defense Department bureaucrat that the credit card charges were improper and that he would report the situation to his commander.

However, when the IG investigators conducted the follow-on review this year, they found that the officer did not notify his commander, and the bureaucracy made no notification either. Further review of the soldier's credit card records revealed 27 additional improper casino charges totaling more than $5,500.

The latest investigation found additional credit card misuse for 22 of 30 personnel who underwent additional scrutiny. Also, 22 of those individuals sought and received improper reimbursements for strip club or casino expenses totaling more than $8,000. 

Another example included an Air Force tech sergeant who traveled Washington, D.C., for two training classes and later filed a reimbursement claim for four days of lodging and seven days of incidental expenses.

Additional investigation found that the airman had traveled to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and was improperly reimbursed for $500 in travel expenses. 

The IG issued several recommendations for the Pentagon. For example, for individuals found to have misused a government credit card, the Defense Travel Management Office should require a review of past credit card use to identify any additional misconduct.

The IG also concluded that the credit card misuse revealed "potential national security vulnerabilities." Credit card misuse is a violation that can warrant revocation of a security clearance, but the misconduct is not routinely reported to the board overseeing security clearances, the Joint Personnel Adjudication System, according to the IG report.

Another IG recommendation included making a policy requiring prompt notification of credit card misuse to the board that reviews security clearances.

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