Leon Panetta demotes 4-star Gen. William Ward over 5-star travel habits

President Barack Obama and senior military officers participate in a wreath-laying ceremony on Veteran's Day at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 2012 in Arlington, Virginia.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has demoted the former head of US Africa Command, four-star Army Gen. William Ward, who is accused of wasting thousands of dollars of taxpayer's money on lavish travel and other unauthorized expenses.

Ward will be forced to retire as a three-star lieutenant general and repay the government about $82,000, Bloomberg cited Pentagon Press Secretary George Little as saying. 

Reuters points out that Panetta's decision amounts to "more bad news about US generals," coming amid scandal involving two of the country's most powerful military men.

Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus resigned as CIA director last week because of an extramarital affair, while Marine Gen. John Allen — the top US commander in Afghanistan — is being investigated by the FBI for allegedly improper email communication with a Florida socialite.

More from GlobalPost: David Petraeus sex scandal envelops US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen

Bloomberg cited a statement by Little as saying that Panetta "insists that leaders within the Department of Defense exemplify both professional excellence and sound judgment... The secretary is committed to ensuring that any improprieties or misconduct by senior officers are dealt with swiftly and appropriately." 

The demotion of Ward, 63, comes after a 17-month investigation of his spending habits, the LA Times reported.

According to Agence France-Presse, the misconduct included:

  • bringing his wife on extended business trips, where she allegedly made unauthorized use of armored vehicles;
  • shelling out $129,000 on a military entourage for an 11-day trip to Washington and Atlanta whose primary purpose was personal;
  • spending lavishly on hotels — including a suite for $747 a night at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess in Bermuda.
  • extended his trips for personal reasons but seeking reimbursment for travel expenses.

The demotion means Ward will lose about $30,000 a year off of his pension, pulling in "only" $208,000 a year, the LA Times wrote.