Metro-East News

Roger That: Wounded Warrior Project fires top executives in wake of lavish spending scandal

Mike Fitzgerald
Mike Fitzgerald

The board of the Wounded Warrior Project, one of the largest veteran support organizations in the country, has fired the nonprofit’s chief executive officer and the chief operating officer, according to a statement released by a public relations firm on behalf of the embattled organization, according to the Washington Post.

The departure of two top executives, CEO Steven Nardizzi and COO Al Giordano, comes at a time when the wounded veteran-focused organization is awash in controversy amid news reports accusing the group of wasteful spending.

The statement by the PR firm, Abernathy MacGregor, said a preliminary financial audit found that “some policies, procedures and controls at WWP have not kept pace with the organization’s rapid growth in recent years and are in need of strengthening.”

According to Wounded Warrior Project tax forms obtained by a CBS News investigation, the organization spent $26 million on conferences and meetings in 2014, up from $1.7 million in 2010.

The CBS report also talked to numerous former employees that accused the organization of making money off their injuries.

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The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that the first female Navy SEAL candidates could arrive at pre-training as early as mid-May, and the Marines will start sending women ground combat candidates to boot camp as soon as April, according to time lines released Thursday by the Defense Department.

That would mean the first women could start the infamously tough SEAL training course in Coronado in late August — potentially being assigned to SEAL teams as early as October 2017, if they make the cut.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s office said he has approved implementation plans by each of America’s armed services to allow women in nearly 220,000 previously closed combat jobs.

It’s a move building since 2013, when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that he would lift the ban on women in combat. Many observers see it as an acknowledgment that women have proven themselves in the line of fire during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“Having reviewed their exceptionally thorough work, I am pleased all of the services developed plans that will effectively carry out this change and make us even better in the future,” Carter said in a statement.

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The Pentagon’s emerging “Arsenal Plane” or “flying bomb truck” is likely to be a modified, high-tech adaptation of the iconic B-52 bomber designed to fire air-to-air weapons, release swarms of mini-drones and provide additional fire-power to 5th generation stealth fighters such as the F-35 and F-22, Pentagon officials and analysts said, according to Scout.com.

Using a B-52, which is already being modernized with new radios and an expanded internal weapons bay, would provide an existing “militarized” platform already engineered with electronic warfare ability and countermeasures designed to thwart enemy air defenses.

“You are using a jet that already has a military capability. The B-52 is a military asset, whereas all the alternatives would have to be created. It has already been weaponized and has less of a radar cross-section compared to a large Air Force cargo plane. It is not a penetrating bomber, but it does have some kind of jamming and countermeasures meant to cope with enemy air defenses. It is wired for a combat mission,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at the Teal Group, a Virginia-based consultancy.

Flying as a large, non-stealthy bomber airplane, a B-52 would still present a large target to potential adversaries; however, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said part of the rationale for the “Arsenal Plane” would be to work closely with stealthy fighter jets such as an F-22 and F-35, with increased networking technology designed to increase their firepower and weapons load.

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Military Times is reporting that the Pentagon is promising to expand its crackdown on improper travel payments after an internal investigation found widespread errors in vouchers that troops submit for reimbursement, according to a new report.

The Defense Department Inspector General released a report Thursday showing that the percentage of inaccurate payments made under the Defense Department Travel Pay program grew from 5 percent in 2012 to 7 percent for 2014, when improper payments totaled more than $458 million. A majority were over payments, though in some cases troops were also shortchanged. It’s unclear how much of this money the Defense Department ultimately recoups.

In many cases, officials approved travel expenses for airfare, hotels and rental cars despite service members’ failure to submit receipts, according to the report.

The uptick came despite the Pentagon’s force-wide effort to reduce improper payments and comply with a 2010 federal law designed to reduce wasteful spending and over payments for official travel.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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