The commander of U.S. Naval Forces Japan has been censured for “poor judgment and a failure of leadership” after a foreign ports contractor was found to have wined and dined senior officers to secure business.
A letter of censure from U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Tuesday said Rear Adm. Terry Kraft and two other admirals “improperly” accepted unspecified gifts from Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. in 2006 and 2007, a period when Kraft commanded the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
All three officers have submitted requests to retire, but on Wednesday Kraft was still in Japan, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy in Washington told The Japan Times.
In a federal court in San Diego on Jan. 15 the contractor’s Malaysian owner pleaded guilty to charges of bribing officers to win ship servicing contracts. Leonard Glenn Francis was accused of throwing lavish parties for officers involved in procurement and later hiding the costs in invoices submitted for work done.
News reports about the trial quoted Francis admitting he gave officers dinners, cigars, spa treatments and the services of prostitutes.
The reports quoted prosecutors saying the bribery cost U.S. taxpayers $20 million in bills that were either padded or filed for work that never took place.
The two other admirals censured, Rear Adm. Michael Miller and Rear Adm. David Pimpo, were senior officers who served alongside Kraft aboard the Ronald Reagan. At that time, it was the flagship of Carrier Strike Group Seven and served on deployments that included periods in support of operations in Iraq.
In a statement, the U.S. Navy said the officers developed “an inappropriately familiar relationship” with the contractor, and “cultivated an unacceptable ethical climate within the respective commands.”
A letter of censure is seen as recognition that an officer’s actions fell short of the standard required but did not amount to criminal conduct.
“Censure was both necessary and appropriate,” the statement quoted Mabus as saying. “I have now received the retirement requests of all three officers, and we will process them appropriately.”
Last month, the Navy said the USS Ronald Reagan will take up a new home in Japan, replacing the USS George Washington at Yokosuka Naval Base, Kanagawa Prefecture, as the flagship of Carrier Strike Group Five.
The George Washington is due to spend an extended period in refit in Virginia for a mid-life overhaul.
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