More than a year after a federal audit revealed that Department of Defense (DOD) employees made millions of dollars in personal charges—including at casinos and strip clubs—on their government-issued credit cards, no action has been taken to stop the criminal behavior. Pentagon officials have done nothing to crack down on the abuse, instead allowing cardholders to keep sticking it to taxpayers by continuing to use the government credit cards at gambling and adult entertainment establishments.
The outrageous details are available in a scathing DOD Inspector General report made public this week. As a follow up to a 2015 investigation, the Pentagon watchdog analyzed 30 service members and civilians it had previously identified for credit card misuse. More than a year later the majority of the offenders still billed Uncle Sam for over $8,000 in charges at strip club or casinos, the new probe found.“We determined that DoD management (cardholder’s commander or supervisor) and travel card officials did not take appropriate action when notified by the DoD OIG, during the previous audit, that cardholders had potentially misused their travel card,” the IG writes. “Specifically, DoD management and travel card officials did not perform adequate reviews for the cardholders reviewed and did not take action to eliminate additional misuse.”
Judicial Watch wrote a story about the previous audit that the IG refers to in its latest report. It was made public in May 2015 and determined that DOD employees made more than $4 million in personal charges on government plastic. During a one-year period the agency charged 20 million transactions for $3.4 billion on government credit cards, the report said. About $3.2 million of it was spent at casinos and nearly $1 million on personal expenses, including about $100,000 at strip clubs by 646 card holders. The casino charges were made through 4,437 transactions by 2,636 charge card holders, according to the report which breaks down expenditures by military branch.
The U.S. Air Force was by far the biggest offender, outspending other branches and civilian DOD employees with government-issued credit cards. In the year analyzed by investigators, the Air Force charged more than $400,000 in personal expenses at casinos and nearly $40,000 at strip clubs. The Army came in second by spending almost $350,000 at casinos during the same period and nearly $35,000 at adult entertainment establishments. As an example the report lists a member of the Naval Special Welfare Group who made a dozen transactions on a government credit card for a total of $1,116 at adult entertainment venues during a business trip to El Paso, Texas. The same sailor also charged $648 in food, drinks and bank withdrawals at other establishments during the El Paso trip. “While in El Paso, the cardholder spent more than six times his total [allotted money for expenses], which included Dreams Cabaret, Jaguars Gold Club, Tequila Sunrise, and Red Parrot Gentlemen’s Club,” the May 2015 report states.
Another example features a senior airman at a North Carolina Air Force base who traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada on taxpayer dime. He made three charges totaling $4,686 with his government credit card at the Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club, the DOD IG found. The same airman tried to charge an additional $920, but the watchdog discloses that the bank declined it because it would have exceeded the spending limit on the card. “The cardholder later admitted that he used his [government card] at the Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club VIP room for himself and several friends,” the report states.
It’s astounding that more than a year after this atrocious behavior was exposed by a federal investigation, no action has been taken. Worse yet, it appears that little will change because the Pentagon’s Deputy Secretary for Military Personnel Policy seems dismissive, noting that personal use identified in the report amounted to less than 0.04 percent of the total travel card spending and less than 0.03 percent of the total transaction volume. The agency watchdog fired back by pointing this out: “In addition, DoD experienced potential national security vulnerabilities due to the lack of adjudication for cardholders with possible security concerns including, extensive travel card misuse, questionable judgment, the decision not to follow rules and guidance, financial concerns, or gambling addictions.”