Ellen Ardrey, the director of human development (HD) at the Pentagon's National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), has been found to have fraudulently paid out some $280,000 in so called "early out" retirement bonuses to senior employees without them being authorised by the NGA leadership as required, a report by the US Department of Defence Office of Inspector General says.
Ardrey was frustrated by the "onerous" and "slow" process of approval of such bonuses for senior NGA employees who wanted to retire early, as only one such bonus was given the green light over the course of ten months in 2016. This led her to come up with a simpler method — she offered senior employees to willingly downgrade to non-senior positions for one day and after that leave the agency. This approach allowed Ardrey to approve "early out" bonuses herself, circumventing the need for approval by NGA leadership.
However, the Office of Inspector General did not accept the approach, especially as one of the seven employees to receive a bonus this way was not actually eligible for it. Although the downgrading of employees and the automatic approval of "early out" bonuses are not explicitly banned practices, investigators found that Ardrey's method constituted "gross mismanagement" and "improper use of government resources".
Despite the conclusions of the Office of Inspector General report, Ellen Ardrey has retained her position, while her case is being reviewed internally by the NGA, a statement by the agency issued on 21 February says.