Why does the military leak so badly that trusting a secret to the Pentagon is like trying to cross the Atlantic in a colander? Well, we give you Ron Lewis (Brigadier General, Retired) who has been in receipt of a number of Good Deals For Brass since making an ass out of himself on a world tour with then-Secdef Ash Carter. Carter selected Lewis as adviser for the same reason Carter did everything — affirmative action virtue signaling, which is what Carter did in lieu of leading the Department.
Lewis didn’t do anything many other officers and soldiers don’t do — got drunk, hit the whorehouses and had a few drinks (stories implied he got his ashes hauled, but that doesn’t seem to have happened), hit on the girls. Difference is, Joe Schmo gets this out of his system while he’s a 2LT or a PFC and a certain amount of juvenile carousing is excused. When you’re a fifty-something senior representative of the US military, you’re expected to conduct your whoremongering and carousing on a less-epic scale, and with an adult’s discretion.
Expectation of discretion is probably one of the greatest reason that many of the Army’s greatest combat leaders are terminal at Colonel and are never seriously considered for a star; Courtney Massengales are horrible, but only to their troops, and never embarrass their leaders. Lewis went too far and embarrassed Carter, and worse, he did it overseas, in Korea and EUCOM.
Had he been a Speedy Four working in a radio intercept battalion somewhere, he’d lose some stripes, spend a couple weeks extra duty on the First Sergeant’s $#!+ Detail Squad, and lose his clearance. The equivalent for Lewis was losing two stars — but his clearance, which is a key to cashing in through the revolving door between Pentagon and boardroom, is inviolate, and that ticks off the reporters at Gannett:
Lewis endured a spectacular flame-out in November 2015 when he was fired from his job as the three-star officer and top military adviser to then-Defense secretary Ash Carter. Lewis had run up tabs at sex clubs on “Hooker Hill” in Seoul and Rome on his government credit card, drank excessively on a trip with Carter and had been overly friendly with young women, the Pentagon inspector general found.
“You are reprimanded for unprofessional conduct while serving in a position of great trust that impugns your personal and professional judgment,” Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn wrote in a letter to Lewis in December that was obtained by USA TODAY. “Specifically you engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behavior that included patronizing establishments of questionable character, drinking to excess in public venues, and inappropriately interacting with female civilian and military personnel.”
Carter canned him immediately, and the investigation dragged on for more than a year. The Army demoted him to one star, docked his pension by about $10,000, and filed the stinging letter of reprimand in his personnel file.
“Docked his pension” is simply the result of the demotion, it’s not an independent action. They can reduce any officer (or NCO) administratively to “the last rank in which he satisfactorily performed.”
The Army says, hey, we’re not going to strip him of clearance because Carter could have done it, but didn’t:
“Maj. Gen. Lewis was suspended from his job by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and was under investigation by the Department of Defense for nearly a year,” said Army spokesman Michael Brady. “During that time, DOD allowed him to retain his clearance. Given that DOD deemed him fit to retain his clearance, and that there were no allegations of mishandling classified materials in their investigation, the Army did, in fact, recommend he be allowed to retain a clearance. However, the decision is not the Army’s to make.”
The problem with clearances is this: they are necessary for many kinds of employment; as t hey are processed by a government organization, they are very slow, inefficient, and expensive to get; therefore, private employers want to get people the military has already spent money to clear.
It is an article of faith in the government that the clearance system is effective, yet the system, developed from an earlier British system of “positive vetting” after some damaging spy scandals, has not prevented the continuation of spy scandals or exposed any spies. It does not prevent leaking to potential enemies through the media, an act that is not taken seriously by Pentagon bureaucrats or their leaders but that has cost billions.
Perhaps everybody should surrender his clearance on leaving government employment, and let employers start everyone from zero. Your clearance ultimately belongs not to you, but to the people of the nation. Perhaps they should be easier to get — and easier to revoke.
The Army’s recommendation comes in spite of an Army policy enacted late last year that triggered the suspension of clearances for senior officers under investigation for serious misconduct. That policy stemmed from the case of then-Maj. Gen. David Haight, the so-called “Swinging General,” whose serial philandering got him fired and demoted. But he was allowed to retain his security clearance several months until USA TODAY reported on his alternative lifestyle and raised questions about his access to sensitive material.
If there’s one thing the Army doesn’t need, it’s more sexual puritanism and top-down alcohol prohibition. The Army of 1941-45 drank, caroused, and fornicated its way from Operation Torch to Hitler’s own sitting room, while our opposite numbers were fueled as much by vodka and rapine as by their understandable thirst from revenge as they drank, caroused and fornicated from their banks of the Don to their enemies drowned in the Elbe. Handshakes and toasts all around on the meeting of the two great victorious armies.
But that’s okay, that was then and this is now. And now, the Elmer Gantries of America’s ever-sanctimonious Native Criminal Class, Congress, are going to enforce the New Puritanism. Yes, a bunch of people you wouldn’t trust to valet-park your pickup truck, have decided that the Army needs to Do As I Say, Not As I Do on the subject of booze and broads.
Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California on Armed Services Committee, said she would demand an explanation from the Army for its decision on Lewis. She also raised the case of the Army’s decision in the case of retired Maj. Gen. John Custer. USA TODAY reported on March 9 that in 2011, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, his four-star commander at the time and eventual chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, intervened to have a substantiated allegation of an improper relationship stricken from the record being considered by a board reviewing Custer’s fate.
It’s the Army, and different spanks for different ranks is part of the deal. The same way that Congress members can and do diddle their pages, rip off their donors and taxpayers, and conduct themselves generally like a crew from UMass-Amherst on Spring Break, with impunity. (Anybody remember the Congressman who hit a — parked, and lighted! — Capitol Police car in the wee hours of the morning, out of his mind on illegal hard drugs, and didn’t get charged? You remember his name — Kennedy).
“If these reports are accurate, I would certainly want hear from the Army about their rationale for this recommendation,” Speier said in a statement. “The official reprimand by the Army Vice Chief states that Gen. Lewis’ conduct impugns his personal and professional judgment, bringing significant discredit to the Department. Secretary Carter agreed and fired him. If that isn’t disqualifying for a position of trust that requires a security clearance, I don’t know what is.
“Coming so soon after the revelations about Major General Custer, it appears that the Army is simply unable to hold senior officers fully accountable for their misconduct and I think we need to look more closely at why that is,” Speier said.
One interesting fact about Rep. Speier: during her run in Congress, her net worth has increased enormously. In fact, since 2008 alone it’s more than doubled, and sits somewhere in the low tens of millions, not counting her happily-enriched-by-her-service hedge-fund husband. Ah, the sacrifices they make for the three-day weeks of a public servant!
For now, the reprimand is the Army’s final word on Lewis. And it is one that dresses him down emphatically.
In it, Allyn slams Lewis for binge drinking, saying he drank “enough to impact your memory and exercise of good judgment.” Allyn cites incidents in Korea, Italy and, the worst, in Hawaii in 2015. “During this visit, after consuming an unknown amount of alcohol, you made inappropriate advances toward a female non-commissioned officer,” Allyn wrote. “Additionally, in Malaysia, witnesses observed you interacting with a subordinate female civilian in a manner inappropriate for a senior leader.”
The inspector general’s conclusions “raise serious concerns about your fitness as a senior leader in the U.S. Army, and your conduct over the period addressed by the investigation has brought significant discredit to the Department,” Allyn continued. “Although no one has questioned your competence, the investigation exposed flaws in your character.”
Frankly, we’d rather have a guy with competence and “flaws in his character,” especially flaws as seen by Representative Gantry Speier, than some bozo who got his stars by staying clear of every fight and never offending the perpetually offended — the traditional pathway to high rank in the peacetime US Army, which is why the first 2-3 years of an American war are often spent in a quest for a general who will fight.
So, the guy goes to bars. He might even have been in a bar fight. Is that a negative? Depends.
We were hiring him to mentor Sunday School teachers, right?
On the other hand, he also knew the rules before he hopped the Ash-n-trash VIP jet to the fleshpots of Europe and Asia. So maybe he’s not the right guy to be a general, but not for the reasons that rich-makler’s-wife Jackie Speier, whose knowledge of military officers consists solely of abusing them in committee hearings, thinks.
The guy you want? It’s the guy who gets his carouse on, but uses such discretion, and inspires such intense loyalty in his men, that Elmer Gantry in his many manifestations can’t prove it and can’t solicit or suborn testimony to it.
To paraphrase Jean Lartéguy, “That is the man for whom I should like to fight.”
For anyone interested in more on Ron Lewis’s firing:
- Jonn Lilyea at This Ain’t Hell, a superior military blog. (Reading between the lines, it looks like Lewis’s real problem was that he hit on an enlisted woman that a female military officer had already chosen as her own).
- One of Lilyea’s commenters: “He could not have been too bright to use a government credit card in Korea and really dumb to pay the high prices at Hooker Hill when there is more cost effective pussy at the MI compound club.” D’oh! Target! Some of the other comments are worthwhile, too.
- A more smart-ass take on Lewis’s rise and fall (attributing the rise to his youth as “a Chicago street kid”) at MilitaryCorruption.com.
- The whole report is here (.pdf), and Lewis seems to have hanged himself. The worst of the charges seems to have been lying about using the government card. He even signed a form that he did not use the card at the off-limits Candy Bar in Itaewon, knowing that was false (!!). He used the government card in a Rome titty bar because he had no personal credit card, and his personal debit card was declined. (Suggests there’s something more there).
- But the report does seem to confirm that what got him caught was none of this, but irritating a subordinate female officer who “asked the female enlisted Service member to leave MG Lewis’ hotel room with her, and warned MG Lewis that he was “being really stupid” and that the female enlisted Service member needed to come with her and stay in her room that night.” The enlisted woman and Lewis did not have sex, according to each of them interviewed individually.
Lesson to all: (1) don’t lie to investigators; (2) do your thinking with Head Nº 1; (3) exercise extreme caution around female subordinates — especially the ones that have a proprietary interest in your other female subordinates.
Kevin was a former Special Forces weapons man (MOS 18B, before the 18 series, 11B with Skill Qualification Indicator of S). His focus was on weapons: their history, effects and employment. He started WeaponsMan.com in 2011 and operated it until he passed away in 2017. His work is being preserved here at the request of his family.