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No Retirement While Facing Charges

February 5, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Amid criticism over the retirement of an Army general accused of sexual misconduct, Defense Secretary William Cohen ordered that top military officers be barred from retiring while facing charges of impropriety or criminal wrongdoing.

Cohen tightened retirement rules for top officers among the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps partly to address critics who complained that generals and admirals were treated leniently for misconduct while lower ranking service members were often punished.

``This standardizes the review process for every branch of the service,″ Col. John Smith, an Army spokesman, said Friday. ``The secretary wanted to make it more uniform among the services.″

Cohen ordered the review of retirement procedures last October after Maj. Gen. David Hale retired honorably after being accused of having had affairs with the wives of four subordinate officers.

Despite his retirement, Hale, 53, was charged in December with 17 military offenses, including conduct unbecoming an officer for the alleged sexual relationships, lying to investigators and obstructing justice. Hale, who denies the charges, faces up to 56 years in prison if convicted.

Gen. Dennis Reimer, the Army’s chief of staff, had approved Hale’s retirement from the Pentagon as deputy inspector general for the Army, a position he had held only four months. Previously, Hale was deputy commanding general of NATO’s allied land forces in southeastern Europe.

Under Cohen’s new rules, the Army chief of staff no longer has authority to approve retirements of top officers. Instead, service secretaries or undersecretaries must also agree to the retirements of generals and admirals after ensuring there are no pending investigations involving them.

The rules state that if an officer is facing ``allegations of impropriety″ that are being investigated by the military criminal justice system, the inspector general, audit agency or other Pentagon agency, the retirement request must be ``flagged″ and not immediately approved.

A secretary or undersecretary can approve the flagged retirement request, however, after considering the seriousness of the charges, the ``likely outcome of the investigation,″ the ``needs of the service″ and the personal situation of the officer, according to the rules. If the service chief approves the retirement, he must immediately notify the defense secretary.

Legal experts said scrutinizing top officer retirements will go a long way toward addressing concerns that high-ranking members of the military get special treatment.

``When there are serious concerns about inequality, you have to be especially careful about applying rules fairly,″ said Anne Coughlin of the University of Virginia Law School. ``You don’t want to worry that one guys gets charged while the other gets off.″

Cohen signed the retirement order on Oct. 9, applying the new rules to all branches of the military service, although the Pentagon didn’t announce the change. The Washington Times first reported on the review requirements in its Friday editions.

The Army had tightened its own retirement rules in June in light of the Hale case. The Air Force, Navy and Marines already required its service chiefs to approve top officer retirements.

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