RALEIGH – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is trimming back a controversial initiative meant to assist veterans and their families after an internal review found evidence of waste and abuse in the program.
The university is “significantly restructuring” the Citizen-Soldier Support Program “to focus primarily on the behavioral health needs of returning combat veterans and their families,” according to an UNC-Chapel Hill statement issued this morning.
CSSP is meant to help veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but the review found that it had an “ambitious and ill-defined” mission. The changes in the program mean a reduction in “several staff positions,” according to the press release, and a reorientation of funds away from one of the program’s chief goals — connecting military members and their families with support structures in the community.
CSSP has received nearly $10 million in federal defense appropriations since 2004, including a $5-million earmark obtained by North Carolina U.S. Rep. David Price, D-4th.
An internal review released four months ago and first reported by Carolina Journal criticized the program for having a poorly defined mission, a spotty record on personnel matters, and a history of misappropriating funds to irrelevant activities.
Records show that CSSP reimbursed one of its employees $76,558 in travel expenses over three years. It also paid an out-of-state consultant $150 an hour, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, for “strategic thinking and action” that included “developing and disseminating” the program’s bi-monthly electronic newsletter.
The program will pursue its revised goals with fewer employees. “Staff positions are being reduced. That reference … was to positions, not reductions in hours,” said Mike McFarland, a spokesman for the university.
The shift also means a different leader will take the helm. Beginning Monday, Bob Goodale, who is listed as a program manager for mental health on CSSP’s Web site, will succeed Peter Leousis as director.
Leousis is deputy director of the Odum Institute for Research and Social Sciences, where CSSP is housed. For two years, he was CSSP’s director and principal investigator.
“Leousis is still the principal investigator for the program but will not be involved in a leadership position when Goodale starts his work as director next week,” McFarland said.
Goodale is a former Harris Teeter CEO and served as deputy secretary of the N.C. Commerce Department in the Hunt administration.
“Taking this step, under Bob Goodale’s leadership, is consistent with the recommendations emerging from an internal review and guidance from the program’s National Advisory Council,” said Tony Waldrop, UNC-Chapel Hill’s vice chancellor for research and economic development, in a prepared statement.
David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.