Whistleblowers: DOD official incompetent, wasteful, 'tyrannical'

The military’s personnel chief is under fire from Pentagon whistleblowers who have charged Clifford Stanley with incompetence, extravagant spending, cronyism and “tyrannical” management.

Pentagon employees have told DOD’s top investigator and senior lawmakers that Stanley spent nearly $400,000 on an “incredibly extravagant” conference room and inserted an old friend into a senior post. The whistleblowers also allege that he forced more than 20 senior executives out of his office and conducted electronic eavesdropping on employees.

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Stanley “has created a dysfunctional command marked by fear and mistrust through a capricious, tyrannical and arbitrary leadership,” according to a July 11 letter to the Pentagon inspector general. “Waste, fraud and abuse of power are rampant. Even if he were competent, his destructive leadership would assure [personnel and readiness office] mission failure.”

That same complaint also featured this blunt assessment: “He is incompetent.”

Those charges, and others, are spelled out in three anonymous complaints from Pentagon employees released Monday by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).

Stanley has been undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness since February 2010. He served 33 years in the Marine Corps, retiring as a major general.

The department is aware of the allegations and takes them seriously, Pentagon spokesman Cynthia Smith said Monday.

Senior Pentagon officials are standing by Stanley.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “values Dr. Stanley's experience, skill, and dedication and believes that he is working hard to support our troops and their families. He's an important part of the Pentagon's senior leadership team," Pentagon press secretary George Little said in a statement.

The documents allege Stanley does not grasp concepts needed for his job, such as knowing the difference between Pentagon appropriations and authorization bills.

The charges of “incompetence” allege that other Pentagon officials have simply started stepping in to do things that in the past have been done by the undersecretary for personnel and readiness.

The July 11 letter states Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale has taken the lead on military healthcare and compensation reform, which fall under the personnel and readiness chief’s purview.

Hale’s “attempts to make … Stanley play a leading role have failed,” the whistleblowers told the IG. The comptroller “has simply assumed leadership. This is unfortunate. The comptroller’s focus and equities are not the same as the [undersecretary for personnel and readiness], who must consider much more than simply reducing costs.”

Several of the complaints point to what the whistleblowers describe as extravagant and unnecessary spending, even in the midst of then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s internal cost-cutting effort.

Several examples are spelled out in an Aug. 3 letter to members of the House Government Oversight and Reform National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations subcommittee.

That letter charges Stanley ordered an $11 million funding cut for the office that oversees the Pentagon’s Wounded Warrior programs, while at the same time directing that shop to devote $2.7 million “for the expensive and wasteful services of McKinsey and Company for that things were … of no value, … in some respects illegal, … and not related to Wounded Warrior.”

The July 11 complaint to the Pentagon IG charges the total cost for the McKinsey and Company work, which included a strategic plan for the Personnel and Readiness office, was $5 million.

But the problem, in the eyes of the whistleblowers, is “the strategic plan has never been released or utilized, and the fact that contractors performed this clearly inherently governmental function is a violation of the law,” the July 11 letter states.

The letter charges an officewide survey showed “widespread low morale” and a “pervasive atmosphere of fear and distrust.”

When asked if that survey could be released, the whistleblowers told the Pentagon IG that Stanley replied: “No. I can’t help it if people are afraid.”

The July 11 letter put the final tab for the new conference room at $360,000.

“This new conference room is used almost exclusively for him as an undersecretary, was at total variance with … Gates’s call to combat inefficiency and waste,” the employees told the IG. They also charge it is used “almost exclusively” for Stanley’s “weekly” 30-minute staff meetings, and is not available for wider staff use.

What’s more, “he displaced staff” to build it, “exacerbating marginal working conditions,” they charge.

Further, several of the reports include allegations of cronyism.

“Because he wished to give employment to a long-standing friend (who had been unemployed for two years after being fired), he detailed a high-performing [senior executive service] out of his position, and obtained “limited term SES appointment” for his long-time friend,” according to the July 11 letter.

One of the documents alleges Stanley inserted the office’s junior-most senior executive into a top job simply because he felt she would be loyal to him no matter what.

The personnel-related charges don’t stop there.

The whistleblowers told the Pentagon IG that Stanley ordered — and sometimes participated in — “electronic forms of eavesdropping” on conversations of his subordinates.

Stanley allegedly ordered monitoring of phone calls made by “most of his senior executives without their knowledge,” according to the letter to the IG. He also ordered computer key-stroke histories to determine whether his subordinates “were corresponding with individuals he did not wish them to,” the same letter charges.

The whistleblowers also charged Stanley with a staff shake-up that resembled “a Stalinist purge.”

They told the IG that under Stanley’s watch, 30 senior executives in the Personnel and Readiness shop “retired under duress, were reassigned … in an apparent attempt to humiliate (incentivizing their departure), or otherwise left the organization due to dissatisfaction with … Stanley.”

The July 11 letter also said Stanley incorrectly touts earning a Ph.D., when his highest earned degree is a doctorate of education (Ed.D.).

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