Navy: $5.5 million
Funds to renovate three topBy Gregg K. Kakesako
admirals' homes should have
had congressional approval
The Navy has admitted to improperly spending $5.5 million to renovate the homes of three of its top admirals, including the Nimitz House at Makalapa, quarters for Pacific Fleet Adm. Archie Clemins.
Last year, Frank Hasegawa, a Pearl Harbor housing manager, complained to the Star-Bulletin and members of Congress that the Navy spent $92,000 to refurbish a lanai and rebuild a leaky fishpond for Clemins -- the Navy's top man in the Pacific -- without authorization from Congress.
Capt. Kevin Wensing, Clemins' spokesman, disputed Hasegawa's charges, saying the Navy can redirect the money from different military budgets as long as it is reported.
But the Senate Appropriations Committee this month criticized Navy officials after they told the committee that the money was taken from its operations and maintenance budgets, which Hasegawa and others contended should have not been used for housing repairs and upgrades.
If the Navy had used housing funds, a congressional report maintains, it would have been required to notify Congress because the money was being spent on admiral's quarters. Instead, the Navy chose to use money intended for exercises, fuel, training, maintenance and spare parts and avoided having to make the report.
In the new military construction bill before Congress, lawmakers have inserted a provision requiring congressional notification for any maintenance or repair work of more than $25,000 on general's and admiral's quarters.
Besides Clemins' 58-year-old home -- Quarters 37 at Makalapa -- the other renovations were to:
Tingey House at the Washington Navy Yard, which is occupied by the chief of naval operations and was built in 1804.Despite the rebuke from Congress, the Navy here maintains that it continues to spend more money for its junior sailors.
Buchanan House at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and the home of the superintendent. That home was erected in 1906.
Lt. Cmdr. Rod Gibbons, Navy spokesman, said that since 1993 the Navy has aggressively pursued upgrading or building new homes for its enlisted personnel, spending more than $287 million, or 93 percent of all its housing money, for enlisted sailors.
Only $21 million was spent upgrading homes for officers.
The Navy, in a written statement, said the disputed money was returned to the operations and maintenance account May 21. The statement said the Navy believed the money could be used for some of the renovations because the homes are used for official purposes, such as entertaining.
The committee also rejected a Navy request in next year's budget to fund $10.3 million to renovate 41 homes for senior officers -- commanders and captains -- in California, Japan and Hawaii.
At Makalapa, 25 units for senior Navy officers, costing $4.6 million, were affected. There are 108 single-family and duplex units at Makalapa reserved for senior Navy officers.
Nearly $760,000 has been spent upgrading Clemins' 6,452-square-foot home since he became Pacific Fleet commander nearly three years ago.
Quarters 37 has been the home of 26 Pacific Fleet admirals beginning with Adm. Chester Nimitz in December 1941.
At one time, a private consultant recommended spending $1.3 million to upgrade the two-story, four-bedroom home.
The current renovation, which includes improving the home's two kitchens, is supposed to be completed July 14.
Clemins, who commands 250,000 sailors, Marines and civilians, is expected to retire from the Navy in October.
The Navy also has spent $528,000 to remodel Clemins' office, including $30,000 for a marble-tiled bathroom, $12,000 for new carpets, $3,000 for an etched-glass shower and $54,000 for a new kitchen.