Traveling to Hawaii, Carter Expected to Leave PACOM Chief in Limbo

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks to service members during a troop event on Osan Air Base in South Korea, April 9, 2015. Carter. (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt)
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks to service members during a troop event on Osan Air Base in South Korea, April 9, 2015. Carter. (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt)

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is expected to leave in limbo the retirement request of the U.S. Pacific Command chief when he visits Hawaii this weekend, a Pentagon official said.

The Pentagon's top civilian this week traveled to the Asia-Pacific region to discuss regional security issues, with stops in Japan and South Korea. He's scheduled to arrive in Honolulu on Saturday.

While there, Carter isn't likely to discuss the retirement status of Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear, according to Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. The four-star admiral remains on the job, even though he put in for retirement more than three months ago and his replacement, Adm. Harry Harris, has already been confirmed.

Locklear's retirement request was deferred in part because Carter wanted to consider him, along with other potential nominees, to succeed Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when his term ends in September.

The admiral's paperwork was also shelved amid a federal criminal investigation into a massive Navy corruption scandal that took place in the Pacific.

While stationed in the Pacific region in 2006 and 2007, officers and civilians were bribed with cash, prostitutes, luxury hotel stays and other illegal gifts from the head of defense contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a man by the name of Leonard Glenn Francis but who was widely known as "Fat Leonard." He pleaded guilty earlier this year in federal court in San Diego.

Five current and former Navy officials have also pleaded guilty so far, and two more may be charged, including a lieutenant commander and a civilian contracting specialist, according to a Washington Post report.

In addition, two admirals -- Vice Adm. Ted Branch, the head of naval intelligence, and Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless -- had their security clearances suspended, though they weren't charged with any crime.

Three more -- Rear Adms. Michael Miller, Terry Kraft and David Pimpo -- were reprimanded for showing "poor judgment and a failure of leadership" by improperly accepting gifts from a "prohibited source" while they were deployed on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

The Navy's top officer in the region, Locklear, is poised to be cleared of wrongdoing in the case, which involved both a Justice Department criminal investigation and a separate Navy review, according to a Defense News report.

A spokesperson for the service couldn't say when Adm. John Richardson, who heads up the review board known as the Consolidated Disposition Authority, would formally announce a decision on the matter.

A statement released by the Navy in February suggested the process would take time, as the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California in San Diego and the Department of Justice Criminal Division in Washington, D.C., refer additional cases to the service for disposition.

"The Navy will review these matters and take appropriate action," it states. "The time of completion is unknown, but it is expected that this process will continue for some time."

Regardless, Locklear has been "shortlisted" for the job of top military officer and adviser to the president, according to a Defense One report. His successor at PACOM, Adm. Harris, was confirmed by the Senate in early December but the change in leadership is on hold until Carter decides who to select for Joint Chiefs chairman.

Other potential candidates to lead the Joint Chiefs are rumored to include Adm. James "Sandy" Winnefeld, the current vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh, the service's chief of staff and a member of the Joint Chiefs; and Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. Central Command.

Winnefeld caught the attention of reporters last month when he was invited to travel with President Obama aboard Air Force One on a trip to Georgia Institute of Technology.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz wouldn't say whether the trip had anything to do with the two discussing the admiral becoming nominated for chairman. When asked, Schultz merely noted that Winnefeld is a graduate of Georgia Tech.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at

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