A top Pentagon official is accused of using her staff to conduct personal errands, ordering them to make trips to the pharmacy to pick up items like pantyhose and snack food, and even asking them to fill out her mortgage paperwork. And when the government employees finally complained about the excessive abuse of authority by Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White, she had workers transferred as a reprisal.
Now, it looks like the House Oversight Committee is getting involved, and the committee chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), wants the Department of Defense (DOD) to produce all relevant records related to White and her allegedly toxic management style.
In hot water
Writing directly to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Gowdy requested “all documents and communications to, from, or about Dana White regarding her tasking other Department employees with non-official business,” and “all documents and communications to or from Dana White regarding the transfer of staff to different positions.”
Gowdy provided a deadline of Sept. 7 to comply with his inquiry and asked that the Oversight Committee receive a briefing by the end of the month.
White’s official title is the Deputy Secretary of Defense for communications, news media relations, public outreach, engagement, public affairs, and visual information, and she serves as Mattis’ “principal staff assistant and advisor.”
White oversees thousands of Pentagon employees and her career spans more than two decades in senior posts around the world. Currently, she is responsible for as many as 6,500 employees, including 2,000 employees that she directly supervises from the Defense Media Activity.
At the request of Pentagon staff members, a military inspector general began looking into allegations that White was using staff to make laundry and pharmacy trips, arrange hair and make-up appointments, serve as her personal chauffeur, and fill out her personal paperwork.
Ethics rules prohibit government supervisors from ordering employees to conduct non-official business on their behalf.
When the news of the inspector general investigation was first reported, White was just landing in Buenos Aires with the secretary of Defense, and she tweeted an image from a press conference during the diplomatic mission. Since then, however, White has ceased all public communications and interactions with the media.
— Dana W. White – DoD (@ChiefPentSpox) August 14, 2018
Fraud, waste, and abuse (oh my)
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is tasked with ensuring “the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the federal government and all its agencies.” They serve as congressional watchdogs against “waste, fraud, and abuse,” and work on behalf of the American people to guarantee that their “investment in the government” is protected.
Gowdy’s letter states that White’s behavior raises “questions about whether the Department’s senior managers receive proper ethics training.” As such, the committee has requested “documents and training materials for senior officials related to ethics and management responsibilities.”
DOD spokesperson Col. Rob Manning refused to elaborate when asked about Gowdy’s letter to Mattis, saying only: “This is an ongoing review and therefore we are unable to provide additional comments.”