WASHINGTON — The number of personal misconduct complaints involving senior military leaders spiked 13 percent over the past three years, the Pentagon’s inspector general reported Tuesday, citing the issue as one of the top management concerns currently facing the military.

“Despite the proactive initiatives by DoD leaders and service [inspector generals], the DoD continues be confronted with high-profile misconduct cases,” the Department of Defense inspector general reported in “Top DoD Management Challenges – Fiscal year 2018.” The inspector general produces the annual report as a planning tool for the coming year’s work, identifying the department’s high-risk areas.

The inspector general reported that from fiscal 2015 to fiscal 2017, the number of allegations against senior military leaders jumped from 710 to 803 complaints.

“The most common allegations involved personal misconduct including improper relationships, improper personnel actions, misuse of government resources, and travel violations,” the inspector general said. “In the category of personal misconduct, there has been a steady trend in substantiated allegations of improper relationships and sexual misconduct.”

Over the past two years, several high-profile generals have been removed from duty following reports of misconduct, including former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s senior military adviser, then-Lt. Gen. Ron Lewis, who was removed from duty in late 2015.

Lewis, who was demoted to brigadier general, was found to have pursued improper relationships and to have used a government credit card to visit strip clubs.

In December 2016, the former director of operations for U.S. European Command, Maj. Gen. David Haight was demoted to lieutenant colonel for a decades-long affair and swinger lifestyle.

In February, the Air Force demoted retired Gen. Arthur J. Lichte to major general following an investigation into allegations of sexual assault involving a lower-ranking female officer that were reported to have occurred during Lichte’s time on active duty.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Harrington, commander of U.S. Army Africa, was removed from command in October following inappropriate texts he sent to the wife of another service member.

“Ethical failures by DoD officials, public corruption investigations, and misconduct by a few DoD employees can undermine public confidence in the DoD, as well as foster an unwarranted perception about the overall character, ethics, dedication and sacrifice of all DoD employees,” the report states.

The ethical misconduct by military senior officials is one of many top management challenges the inspector general highlighted for 2018. Other issues include the Pentagon’s plan for countering strategic threats by North Korea, Russia, China, Iran and transnational terror groups, acquisition issues and readiness challenges.

The full report can be viewed here:

Tara Copp is a Pentagon correspondent for the Associated Press. She was previously Pentagon bureau chief for Sightline Media Group.

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