A two-star Air Force general and four other airmen have been disciplined for their roles in helping to steer a $49.9 million contract to a company connected to a retired general.
The Air Force's highest ranking officer, however, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, will not face any penalty for the debacle, nor will the retired general who benefited from the contract.
The report, by the Pentagon inspector general, concludes that Air Force officials improperly steered the contract, which invested tens of millions of dollars into a new audio system for the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team, to Strategic Message Solutions (SMS). The report says that the small company had minimal experience for such a large contract. SMS, however, did have a retired Air Force general as one of its partners.
Six months after leaving the military, Gen. Hal Hornburg, whose command had included the Thunderbirds, became a partner at SMS. His company won the contract even though a rival company's bid was for half the amount of money. The contract was later cancelled after the Air Force general counsel questioned the "integrity of the process" and the involvement of four-star generals.
The inspector general's investigation has found that the awarding of the contract was tainted with improper influence, preferential treatment and was likely a violation of the Pentagon's ethics rules.
Today, Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne took administrative action against the five airmen for their role in steering the contract. The highest ranking official to be disciplined was Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Goldfein, who was commander of the Air Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force at the time the contract was awarded.
Air Force ethics rules ban recently retired generals from soliciting the Air Force for business for at least one year. Pentagon investigators could have brought charges against Hornburg using the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but no charges were filed.
"I am deeply disappointed that our high standards were not adhered to in this case," said Secretary Wynne. "This is not how the Air Force does business, and we are taking steps to ensure this doesn't happen again."
While Gen. Moseley won't face any administrative action, there is no doubt that the report will be embarrassing.
Gen. Moseley is listed as a subject in the investigation along with retired Gen. Hornburg, his company SMS and the other lower ranking officers. Investigators interviewed Gen. Moseley asking him about e-mails he sent to SMS president Ed Shipley. Moseley comes under criticism in the report for having early communications with the eventual winning bidders.