Police Academy in the Alps | The Nation


Police Academy in the Alps

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In the midst of all these investigations and uproar, NBC News caught wind of the unfolding scandal at the Marshall Center and sent a team to Garmisch. The network ran a teaser for the story on June 11, 1996, which was set to air as a Nightly News "Fleecing of America" segment the following evening. Soon after the promo ran, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon called Jim Maceda, the correspondent on the story. "[Bacon] was livid," Maceda recalled in an e-mail. "Between many expletives, he made it clear that if NBC News ran the Marshall Center story as a Fleecing of America, he wud personally bury my career. How could we be so wrong, so unjust, so f'ing this and f'ing that--I was pretty shocked by the threatening tone." Maceda stood by the story, as did Tom Brokaw, but after being informed of Bacon's criticism a show producer suddenly decided that the piece didn't have strong enough images or interviews. For his part, Maceda says he "had done hundreds of pieces for Nightly which had much less going for them, from a production point of view." Nonetheless, the segment was pulled; in its place NBC aired a report about the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park. (Bacon, now the head of Refugees International, says he has "no recollection" of calling Maceda, but he says it could have happened. "We always felt that it was a very mixed picture at the center," Bacon recalls. "There were some good things, but there were some problems, which we were trying to fix.")

Research support was provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.

About the Author

Ken Silverstein
Ken Silverstein is a Washington, DC–based investigative reporter.

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In late 1996 Bernstein was finally forced to resign, though the circumstances were hushed up. Cheney, then the recently hired CEO of Halliburton, and Perry helped arrange for him to land a job as chancellor of the State University of New York, but at the last minute the school's board found out about his disastrous tenure at the Marshall Center and nixed the appointment. Bernstein (now deceased) was quietly posted to a slot at the National Defense University, where he kept his senior executive service rank and six-figure salary. (Cheney continues to be a Marshall Center booster and had agreed to speak at a tenth-anniversary celebration but a scheduling conflict prevented it. His office did not provide a response to questions about his support.)

There are certainly talented, hardworking staff and students at the Marshall Center, but in many ways little seems to have changed since Bernstein was pushed out. Since 1998 the school has been the subject of three separate IG investigations. In December 2000 Stars and Stripes reported ongoing troubles at the center and said that the paper had been contacted by at least a dozen past and current staffers who complained of a management climate "in which employees who speak up about perceived abuse...are subjected to reprisal and retaliation by the senior leadership." Professors and administrators continue to draw bloated salaries and are given a monthly housing allowance of up to $1,800. Their vast offices are equipped with a TV and refrigerator, not to mention expensive furniture whose cost has alarmed the Marshall Center's own budget analysts. Many top staffers are former military officials--meaning they draw military pensions of as much as $60,000 annually on top of their salaries--leading some local wags to dub the Marshall Center "The Retired Colonels Benevolent Society."

Staffers are required to do little in exchange for their compensation and perks. Professorial duty doesn't go beyond giving an occasional lecture and running seminars. "The level of instruction at the school does not reach the level of a community college," says former teacher Dan Nelson. Meanwhile, employees have plenty of time to vacation on the cheap at resorts run by the US military or, while in Garmisch, to swim in an Olympic-size pool and work out at a superbly equipped gym--about to be improved to the tune of $700,000, which will pay for, among other things, the installation of hot tubs. The center's deputy director, retired Maj. Gen. Michael McCarthy, is an avid skier and spends so much time working out that some staffers call him "The Chest." Meanwhile, McCarthy pulls in $125,000 a year and in July of last year, after just four months on the job, was granted a performance award of $4,000, despite having created a number of bitter personnel problems. (Kim Walz, a spokeswoman for the Marshall Center, says McCarthy goes to the gym on his lunch break and doesn't ski on company time.)

Junketeering also abounds. A huge travel budget--this year it worked out to more than $10,000 per professor, though a small group of favorites hogs a preponderant share of it--allows faculty and staff to roam widely. One pair of professors, accompanied by their spouses, headed to Italy and the south of France--strange choices, given the school's supposed focus on Central and Eastern Europe.

Just as in the days of Bernstein, the Marshall Center remains a good old boys' bastion (of the twenty-eight faculty members, one is female). A good example of the school's "colonel culture" came in an e-mail McCarthy sent in August 2001 to a small group of male staffers, inviting them to "a manly man dinner" at a local hotel in honor of a visiting general. "The chef is preparing a beef and wine dinner," said the invitation. "We will follow the dinner with single malt scotch and, should you wish, cigars on the terrace."

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