Army Deceptions May Cause Embarrassment
17 January 2012
The Army has been deceiving members of Congress about MEDEVAC issues in Afghanistan. This poses a danger for civilian leadership who may run with the Army information, expecting accuracy in detail and in spirit, only to be ridiculed later.
In Afghanistan, I first brought up the MEDEVAC issue at Task Force Spartan in Zhari District, but this was above their level. There was excellent leadership at TF Spartan, yet nothing to push because there was little they could do.
Next, Regional Command South in Kandahar addressed the issue but did nothing.
Next, the IJC (combatant command in Kabul) did nothing. The issue was taken up by ISAF HQ in Kabul, who did nothing. (When I write, “nothing,” it means they wrote false accounts of the events and demanded that I publish them. I refused.)
Next, thanks to concerned readers, many letters went to Representatives and Senators. Some elected leaders took steps.
Senator Charles Grassley (Iowa) wrote to the Secretary of the Army, John M. McHugh. Secretary McHugh responded to Senator Grassley with bogus statements and passed the buck to CENTCOM. Secretary McHugh’s letter is published here.
CENTCOM rightfully rejected this weak bureaucratic maneuver and passed it back to the Army in Washington, where it belonged in the first place.
CENTCOM made no false statements, to my knowledge. The Commanding General of CENTCOM is the highly respected General James Mattis, USMC.
Importantly, General Mattis has a war in Afghanistan to think about, and a potential war with Iran unfolding, not to mention other responsibilities in the CENTCOM area of responsibility. He’s no doubt disgusted with this bureaucratic waste of energy. The Marines and Air Force, from what I can derive, are equally repulsed with the Army maneuvering.
The struggle went higher than the Army when the Joint Chiefs of Staff sent a deceptive communiqué to the House Armed Services Committee. The JCS letter directly addresses my dispatches on the MEDEVAC failures.
HASC forwarded the JCS missive to Representatives.
The Honorable W. Todd Akin represents the 2nd District of Missouri. His office forwarded the JCS statement to me, asking questions.
Congressman Akin’s office did not take the word of JCS. His office also did not take my word. I respect that. Mr. Akin’s team conducted its own investigation and is taking up this issue.
Mr. Todd Akin, from “The Show-Me State,” is on point. The first serious government credit goes to his team.
Congressman Akin is demonstrating how to effectively represent constituents and how to exercise oversight of the executive branch and the military.
As with Senator Charles Grassley (Iowa), Senator Jon Kyl (Arizona) deserves credit for taking the step of contacting the military. However, when the Army responded with straw, the apparently well-intentioned Senators may have dropped the issue. At minimum the Senators are in danger of repeating false information supplied to them in bad faith.
There is much going on with other members of government, and the Army is trying to get ahead of it.
Take the above letter from Brigadier General David Bishop to Senator Jon Kyl. If Senator Kyl were to use this information in good faith on television, the Dustoff and Pedro communities might think Senator Kyl is selling out service members. In fact, the good Senator might be doing what he thought was best, unaware that he had been ill advised by an Army general.
Civilian leadership is strongly encouraged to use maximum circumspection before quoting the above letter from BG David Bishop, or the letter from JCS.
I have not yet published the complex JCS letter. Several more days are needed to properly counter; I’ve drafted a response but am running it by various Air Force Pedro and Army Dustoff pilots, and combat-experienced officers and NCOs. It takes time to ensure the facts.
What we know:
The Army has affixed its final stamp that no policy changes are underway. SecArmy punted to CENTCOM (a joint command under Marine General James Mattis), who booted it back to Big Army. JCS wrote their own letter.
SecArmy is the end of the Army road, and JCS is the end of the uniformed military road.
Three layers remain: Secretary of Defense; President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief; Voters.
Now to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Secretary Panetta seems like a fair man. There is a chance he will intervene. If Secretary Panetta stops the buck, that’s it. Credit to SecDef. Case closed.
If Secretary Panetta lets it slide, the next stop is President Obama.
Some people have put this on President Obama, but that is inappropriate. The Dustoff Red Cross policy, for instance, has passed through many presidencies. Today, this has not yet worked its way through the current chain of command.
All issues should be solved at the lowest possible level. This has failed. The Army has failed. JCS has failed. If this makes it to President Obama, and he sets it straight, the credit goes to the President.
If the SecDef passes it and the President does not take it, this becomes an election issue about troop welfare. Ultimately, the buck stops with voters.
CBS is working on a major nightly news story about the Dustoff MEDEVAC issue. I do not know when it will air. CBS interviewed numerous people, including me. I will publish the schedule immediately upon notification from CBS.
Finally, a huge Thank You to the people who are quietly making this happen.