Pentagon Spokeswoman Is Under Investigation Over Staff Complaints of Retaliation

Dana W. White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman. In recent months, several Defense Department officials have complained about a toxic environment and low morale in the public affairs office.

WASHINGTON — Dana W. White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, is under investigation by the Defense Department’s inspector general over accusations that she retaliated against members of her staff after they complained about her management style, department officials said.

The investigation, first reported by CNN, centers on Ms. White’s decision to transfer members of her staff after they filed complaints about her. She also used her staff to fetch dry cleaning, run other errands and drive her to work, according to the CNN report.

In recent months, several Defense Department officials have complained about a toxic environment and low morale in the Pentagon’s public affairs office, and they have said that Ms. White chided department aides for talking to the news media.

Officials said that Ms. White had transferred an aide who told her superiors about Ms. White’s plans to put the daughter of Adm. Craig S. Faller, the senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in a top public affairs position in the office of the deputy secretary of defense. And officials pointed to a $600,000 study ordered up by Ms. White last year to look at the Defense Department’s media operations. The study has yielded little, a department official said.

Bruce K. Anderson, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s inspector general, would not confirm the investigation into Ms. White.

Ms. White, who is with Mr. Mattis in Argentina, referred requests for comment to a statement from one of her deputies, according to the traveling press pool.

“This is an ongoing review about which we cannot comment,” said Charles Summers, the principal deputy assistant to the secretary for public affairs.

Ms. White is a political appointee from the Trump administration. She previously served as a foreign policy adviser for Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and as the director of policy and strategy communications for the Renault-Nissan Alliance in France.

This is not the first time Ms. White has come under scrutiny. A BuzzFeed article last month highlighted discrepancies in a series of emails between Ms. White, other Pentagon staff members and at least one reporter from Breitbart in June 2017.

The emails, obtained by the watchdog group Democracy Forward and shared with BuzzFeed, show poor coordination between the White House and the Pentagon after a White House statement released June 26, 2017. The statement said that the Syrian government would “pay a heavy price” if it conducted another chemical attack.

While the emails detailed in the article confirmed that the Pentagon had no knowledge of the statement and scrambled to respond, Ms. White emailed a Breitbart reporter the contrary.

“DOD knew about the White House statement and provided edits in advance of its release,” Ms. White wrote. “Anonymous leaks to the contrary are false or misinformed.”

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