A 15-member team of Air Force finance and safety officials was to arrive at Maxwell Air Force Base, AL, on April 19 to discuss the Civil Air Patrol’s standards of conduct and begin a review of its bookkeeping procedures and safety programs.
The review was prompted by an Air Force audit of patrol spending for 1996, which concluded that active-duty Air Force representatives to the patrol’s corporate board were insufficient checks and balances on patrol operations. Millions of taxpayer dollars, appropriated to the patrol through the Air Force, were spent on unnecessary or questionable purchases.
A spokeswoman for the patrol, the Air Force’s official auxiliary, said “the review was a reprieve from Air Force plans to take over control of the organization from the private, nonprofit corporation that runs it.”
But Air Force officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the service will not retreat from plans to bring the auxiliary under greater Air Force control.
They paint a picture of an organization that has grown increasingly independent and unaccountable since 1995, when the drawdown caused the Air Force to radically reduce the number of active-duty personnel working with the auxiliary. And they offer numerous examples in support of their claim.
After the patrol entered into an anti-drug program with the federal government in 1997, members would visit airports and report any aircraft they deemed suspicious, according to Pentagon sources and a former high-ranking patrol official in Texas.
The program drew the ire of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, whose members’ planes were reported to the Drug Enforcement Administration and even impounded and searched over groundless suspicions, said the former patrol official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The patrol withdrew from the program in 1998.
Air Force officials also believe patrol leaders are abusing their positions, using corporate-owned aircraft for personal use and chalking it up to patrol business.
Patrol spokeswoman Mary Nell Crowe said “the Air Force will have to provide specific instances of such abuse, adding that many patrol members spend up to $10,000 a year out of their own pockets to fly patrol missions.”
An organization calling itself Civil Air Patrol-Special Operations Group also is causing some concern among Air Force officials. Web pages for the group claim it is “a paramilitary wing of the United States Air Force Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol.”
One page referred to a photo of group members “beaten a Juden,” that is, a Jew.
“Patrol officials have learned the pages were created by two former Civil Air Patrol cadets and one active cadet. The latter is now under suspension pending a complete investigation and likely will be kicked out of the organization,” Crowe said.
After the April 19 review, patrol officials will have a follow-up meeting with acting Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters to determine what actions, if any, will be taken.
In an April 13 press release, patrol National Commander Brig Gen James Bobick said he hoped the review process would be “truly the beginning of open and forthright discussions with the U.S. Air Force regarding the status of (the patrol). We feel this process will be mutually beneficial to all parties and provide fact that will dispel false information and impressions.”