Saturday, November 12, 2011






On this Veterans Day, the Pentagon finds itself in another scandal. Last night, David Martin (CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley -- link has text and video) reported on the Air Force's landfill scandal. Here's a transcript of the first minute of the report.

Scott Pelley: Just when you thought the scandal over mishandled remains of fallen American troops at Dover Air Force Base couldn't get any worse. It did today. David Martin has been reporting on the investigation that led to a career ending letter of reprimand for the commander of the mortuary and tonight David is at the Pentagon with new developments.

David Martin: A landfill is no one's idea of a fitting resting place for a soldier fallen in battle.

Gari-Lynn Smith: No service member, no human being at all, should be placed into a landfill -- no matter if it's a finger nail, a foot or an entire body

David Martin: Yet that is what happened to Gari-Lynn Smith's husband, Sgt 1st Class Scott Smith, who was blown apart by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2006. Without her knowing part of his body was incinerated and disposed of as medical waste in this Virginia landfill. She found out two years after his funeral.

Gari-Lynn Smith: I have honestly no idea what we buried of him because they forbid me to see him in the casket.
The issue was raised by Senators Kelly Ayotte and Claire McCaskill in yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. We noted the hearing in yesterday's snapshot in terms of Ayotte and McCaskill's remarks and questions on the disrespect shown to the remains of the fallen (Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Portions" notes Ayotte's exchange). That was a needed topic and one more senators could have explored. But the topic of the hearing was whether or not the Chief of the National Guard should be a Joint-Chief of Staff.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Now, Mr. Johnson, headlines are made at every hearing. Is the headline from this hearing "Obama Administration Opposes Putting the National Guard Bureau Chief on the Joint-Chiefs"?
Defense Dept General Counsel Jeh Johnson: Uhm, uh, Senator, you've, uh, heard the best military advice from --
Senator Lindsey Graham: Well I'm going to tell you what Vice President [Joe] Biden said in 2008 when he spoke to the National Guard Conference in Baltimore, "It's time for change. Change begins with giving the Guard a seat at the table -- that table in the Pentagon where the Joint-Chiefs sit." President [Barack] Obama's campaign document, Blueprint for Change, page 55, if you want to read it, I haven't read it, I'll be the first one to admit to it, but this part I do like. Obama will restore the readyness of the National Guard and Reserves. He will permit them adequate time to train and rest between deployments, provide the National Guard with equipment they need for foreign and domestic emergencies. He will also give the Guard a seat at the table by making the Chief of the National Guard a member of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff." Has he changed his mind?
Defense Dept General Counsel Jeh Johnson: Uhm, the, uh, uh, not to my knowledge
Senator Lindsey Graham: Don't you think when he said that, he thought long and hard about this and he came to conclude as a prospective commander-in-chief this would be a good idea? And you're not here to tell us he's wrong, are you?
Defense Dept General Counsel Jeh Johnson: The president and the vice president are above my pay grade.
Appearing before the Committee was the Defense Dept's General Counsel Jeh Johnson --noted above -- as well as the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey, Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm James Winnefeld Jr., the Army Chief of Staff Gen Ray Odierno, Chief of Naval Operations Adm Jonathan W. Greenert, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen Jame Amos, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Norton Schwartz and the National Guard Bureau Chief Gen Craig McKinley. Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator Scott Brown is also an attorney with the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the Massachusetts Army National Guard.
Senator Scott Brown: I'm looking at a letter from General Amos and Chief Greenert. In paragraph three of the letter says that "CNGB does not represent a branch of service nor is CNGB responsible for manning and training and equipping the National Guard to the extent of the service chiefs." And I've got to respectfully disagree. Pursuant to the DoD directive as to the responsibilities of what the Guard in fact does, they are responsible for entire cradle to grave planning program budgeting and execution of these budgets. Provides the President's budget for each of the APPN, which goes to Congress, validates those requirements, provides the annual financial reports to Congress. It's in fact the service chiefs that don't have any of that budget responsibility. Is that -- Was there a mistatement in your letter there?
Gen James Amos: Well, senator, the point we were -- that I was making was making in the letter, we-we the service chiefs, testify to -- are held accountable to the Congress for the execution of those budgets as well. We have budget submitting offices -- pardon me -- in the Navy who do similarly that you just listed there.
Senator Scott Brown: But you said specifically, they have -- they have, they're not responsible at all. And, in fact, that's not correct. That being said, I'd like to just shift gears a little bit. Um, on -- Mr. Johnson, you indicated that you felt that maybe it would create confusion as to who represents the Army and Air Force and I've referenced letters -- General Odierno's "confusion and balance," obviously General Schwartz' confusing lines of authority and you, sir, Adm Greenert, complicated unity of command. I mean, it is really any question as to what the chain of command is with the Joint Chiefs? Obviously General McKinley would go through General Odierno and obviously General Schwartz to General Dempsy. There's no chain of command breach at all. I think it's very clear. And in addition to that, it would -- it would -- I don't think there's any question that the command authority, the Title X Command Authority wants to change. I don't believe the Guard or General McKinley in his capacity is seeking a seat wants to change that at all. He wants -- he wants -- and I believe, I don't -- I guess I'll just ask you, sir. You don't want to change the Title X Command Authority at all, do you?
Gen Craig McKinley: No, sir. As I said in my opening remarks, it's working well for us.
Senator Scott Brown: There's no confusions as to who you have to go through in the chain of command, is there?
Gen Craig McKinley: I-I-I have no confusion.
Senator Scott Brown: And with regard to the total force integration, do you feel that that would be benefitted by you having a seat at the table?
Gen Craig McKinley: It's improved greatly as the service chiefs have testified. It can only get better.
Senator Scott Brown: And is there any question that you in your capacity of having a seat at the table would be the person that could best advise not only in any capacity through any of the service chiefs or the president or anybody on the domestic mission and what the non-federalized units would be able to do? Espececially the homeland security issues that we're facing? Is there anyone else better quaified than you in your capacity to do that?
Gen Craig McKinley: Sir, I think it's my role and responsibility to be that person.
Senator Scott Brown: I would agree with you and just to follow up on what Senator Inhoff said, General Schwartz, on the fighter aircraft issue, is it a fair statement that due to the effort to save money with the Air Force, the Guard units are going to be eviscerated when it comes to aircraft. And especially, I've heard and others have commented that the TAGS can't gain access to the plans as to what wings will be effected and how many of the aircraft are going to be lost and isn't that another reason to have somebody like General McKinley at the table that can advise those TAGS and others what the plan is for the aircraft --
General Schwartz: Senator Brown, that's not a role of the Joint Chiefs, but beyond that, the reality is that if the Air National Guard is going to be eviscerated so will the active duty and the reserve. We are getting smaller together. That is what's underway here. And I would emphasize the point that -- that we are now the smallest Air Force that we've ever been and so -- And because of that, those reductions that occur because of diminishing resources -- which we all face -- will be shared by all the components.
Senator Scott Brown: Well you know that's interesting. You know, that is another reason why we all need to get back to the table and get this select committee to work so sequestration doesn't come in and dramatically effect this more.
Senator Kelly Ayotte noted that the record indicated that in 1978 the then Joint-Chiefs opposed the Commandant of the Marines becoming a member of the Joint-Chiefs of staff. Gen Amos agreed that the change had not hurt the Joint-Chiefs but stated he was not aware of the positions in 1978.
If there was a valid reason not to make the Chief of the National Guard, it wasn't expressed in the hearing by the witnesses. What they offered repeatedly came off as, "If someone else is promoted to our level, our level becomes less special for us." If all them together couldn't come up with one solid reason then either verbal skills are sorely lacking in military leadership or else there is no solid reason to deny it.
An important point: The Guard is not being used as it was in the last century. Under Bush the Guard became another unit of the military to be deployed to war overseas. If that's what the Guard now is, then, yes, they need to be represented in the Joint-Chiefs. Their role has changed and they suffer a tremendous burden and carry more than their weight. That largely went unsaid except for Senator Daniel Akaka who noted it and how it calls for some adjusments such as elevating "the Chief of the National Guard bureau to the Joint-Chiefs of Staff is something that is overdue and will show our guardsmen and their families that they are a true partner. It will also let them know that their voices and views will be represented at the highest levels of government."
Long before he became a senator, Lindsey Graham was serving in the Air Force and today he serves in the US Air Force Reserves and is a Senior Instructor at the Air Force JAG School.
Senator Lindsey Graham: General Amos, pound for pound, do you agree the Marine Corps is the best fighting force in the world?
Gen Jame Amos: Yes, sir. We celebrate that today on our birthday.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Okay. Good. I agree with you. Do you agree with me that the only thing older than the Marine Corps when it comes to defending America is the citizen-soldier?
Gen Jame Amos: Sir, I believe that's true.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Well okay. So I'm here to tell everybody I appreciate it but the citizen-soldiers' day has come. You're going to get a seat at the table, General McKinley, if I have anything to say about it. We're long into this fight as a nation. The first shot was fired by a citizen-soldier, it is time for the citizen-soldier to be sitting at the table -- not for political reasons, but for substantive reasons.
The most vocal opponent was Senator Jim Webb who had no real reason to explain why he opposed it today or why, when he was 25-years-old, he wrote an article expressing the belief that the National Guard should have a seat on the Joint-Chiefs.

Recommended: "Iraq snapshot"