Depressing Pie Chart #2

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Battleland appreciates the simplicity of pie charts. Probably comes from always getting the smallest slice of pizza as a kid.

Here’s a nifty new one from the Pentagon inspector general’s semi-annual report. It details complaints made against senior Pentagon officials – any officer with stars on his/her shoulders, top-ranking civilians who belong to the Senior Executive Service, and political appointees – in the year that ended September 30, 2012.

Variety, as they say, is the spice of command. Look at the range of alleged wrongdoing, from “misuse of subordinates” to “misuse of position” to “gifts.” It’s nice to know the senior ranks are purportedly skilled in so many areas of supposed malfeasance.

According to the IG, there were 815 complaints of alleged misconduct by top Pentagon officials (in some cases, more than one allegation was made against a single individual).

A total of 639 have been closed:

— 318 “were dismissed due to lack of a credible allegation of misconduct.”

— Of the 321 remaining, “83 of the closed investigations, (26 percent) contained substantiated allegations.”

Did you see that?

The IG just used funny math, by changing denominators in mid-stream. It’s an old trick: focus on the numerator while tweaking the denominator, and the problem can appear worse than it is.

Sure, 26% of the 321 cases yielded substantiated allegations – but only if you don’t add the 318 cases that were dismissed for lack of evidence of wrongdoing to the total.

But isn’t that bigger pile – 639 – the key number? If you conclude that it is, only 13% of the allegations were substantiated.

Still too high, to be sure, but only half as high as the IG says.