Navy admonishes admirals for U.K. trip

WASHINGTON — Amid a flurry of ethical scandals vexing the military comes a new transgression: The Navy has rebuked three admirals for taking a questionable trip to Britain and thereby flunking what it termed “The Washington Post Test.”

Unlike other cases of personal misconduct that have been dogging U.S. military leaders in recent years, this episode hardly amounted to a high crime. The admirals went on an official, seven-day trip to Britain in April 2012 that, to some eyes, seemed more about pleasure and less about business.

A whistleblower reported the trip to the Naval Inspector General, alleging that the three commanders were longtime pals, that they took along their wives and that it was perceived as “no more than a taxpayer financed vacation to London, England for six close friends to celebrate.” At the time, two of the Navy officers had just been selected for promotion to one-star admiral.

The anonymous whistleblower acknowledged that many aspects of the trip might be “technically legal” but asked Navy investigators whether it would “stand up to ‘The Washington Post Test.’ “ In other words, what if The Washington Post found out about it – would it provide embarrassing material for a news story?

In June, after a year-long investigation that resulted in a 68-page report and an intensive audit of every penny spent, the Naval Inspector General concluded that the admirals had flunked. It found that Rear Adms. Mark Heinrich, David Pimpo and Donald Singleton – each of whom held important Navy supply and logistics jobs – had violated federal travel regulations by staying at London hotels that cost more than $400 a night and booking unnecessarily expensive flights.

The inspector general determined that there were legitimate business reasons to take the trip, although it was a close call.

The British Royal Navy had issued a standing invitation for the visit. Over seven days, the U.S. admirals visited the British Ministry of Defense for two hours, spent half a day at the U.S. Embassy in London and visited several British Navy installations. At the same time, they did take along their wives (although not at taxpayer expense), arranged a leisurely visit to Bath and didn’t do any business over the weekend.

When asked by the inspector general how the military benefited from the trip, Pimpo was a little vague, testifying that the purpose was “to talk to our counterparts about several issues that we had been working jointly.” Among other ideas, he said, he swapped pointers with the British about “how they train their cooks.”

The inspector general found a pattern of travel-related violations committed by Heinrich, who at the time was the commander of the Naval Supply Systems Command.

On the same day he returned to the United States from London, he took another taxpayer-paid flight to visit his alma mater, the University of Kansas. While there, he was inducted into the hall of fame of the school’s Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Department. He gave a speech, stayed the weekend and took in a football game.

The inspector general concluded that the award was “personal” and had little to do with his job at the Navy; that he spent $321 more on airfare than he should have; and that he improperly accepted a gift from the university, a laser-engraved chair valued at $338.

Over the next five weeks, Heinrich took other business trips to Dallas, Philadelphia, Norfolk, Washington and Richmond. In each case, the Navy found minor violations of regulations.

Heinrich retired as a two-star admiral on Nov. 1. In a phone interview, he said he was not forced to retire and that the Navy did not discipline or punish him as a result of the investigation. He said the purposes of his trips were entirely legitimate.

“With all candor, it was never anything more than an administrative issue,” he said. “I think I served with distinction and did the Navy proud.”

Singleton is now serving as the Pacific Fleet’s deputy chief of staff for logistics. He did not respond to requests for comment placed through a Navy spokesman.

Pimpo is now commander of the Defense Logistics Agency’s Land and Maritime office in Columbus, Ohio. He did not respond to an email seeking comment or a request placed through a Navy spokeswoman.

Although the inspector general report on the admirals was kept confidential, The Washington Post obtained it after filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act for all Naval Inspector General investigations into misconduct by admirals over the previous year.

The Navy released the report Thursday, four months after The Washington Post filed the request.

Talk to us

More in Local News

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

Craig Hess (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)
Sultan’s new police chief has 22 years in law enforcement

Craig Hess was sworn in Sep. 14. The Long Island-born cop was a first-responder on 9/11. He also served as Gold Bar police chief.

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

A suspected hit and run crash Wednesday morning left a pedestrian dead on I-5 north near Marysville. (Washington State Patrol)
Suspected hit and run crash on I-5 near Marysville leaves 1 dead

State patrol responded to reports of a body on the right shoulder of I-5. Two lanes were closed while troopers investigated.

Representative Rick Larsen speaks at the March For Our Lives rally on Saturday, June 11, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Larsen: ‘Fractured caucus’ of House Republicans is ‘unable to lead’

Following removal of the House speaker, a shutdown still looms. Congress has until Nov. 17 to devise a spending plan.

Spada Lake is seen from Culmback Dam on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, near Sultan, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Helicopter crash in Copper Lake sparks environmental, health concerns

Rangers hadn’t heard of fly-in tourism in the area — which can harm the wilderness and people downstream, advocates say.

Man charged with dealing fentanyl pills that led to Arlington overdose

Prosecutors charged Robin Clariday with controlled substance homicide. He allegedly handed Bradley Herron the pills outside a hotel.

Seattle woman identified in fatal Highway 99 crash

Elena Mroczek, 74, was killed Sunday in a crash involving a 19-year-old.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Rival gang members charged with killing Everett boy, 15, at bus stop

The two suspects are accused of premeditated first-degree murder in the death of Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Witnesses contradict gunman’s account of killing Monroe prison officer

Dylan Picard, 22, was driving on South Machias Road when Dan Spaeth approached his car to slow it down to avoid hitting a deer.

The Safe Sleep Cheat Sheet shows what's safe for infants and what should be avoided. Photo provided by the Snohomish County Health Department.
Infants’ deaths from unsafe sleeping far outpace other accidents

Nineteen infants died in two years in Snohomish County, when zero died from drownings or car crashes. Officials sounded the alarm this week.