The Air Force has launched an investigation into allegations that a prominent military leader threatened to ostracize service members who dared to discuss with lawmakers the service’s plan to retire combat aircraft.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain called for the investigation after rumors surfaced that Maj. Gen. James Post, the vice commander of Air Combat Command, told his officers that anyone “passing information to Congress about A-10 capabilities is committing treason.”
“John Q. Public” Blogger Tony Carr was the first to report on Maj. Gen. Post’s threat and quoted the career airman as saying, “If anyone accuses me of saying this, I will deny it,” the Washington Free Beacon said.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told the Arizona Republican and other committee members during a Jan. 28 congressional hearing on the impact of sequestration on national security that the Air Force Inspector General’s Office had undertaken the task of finding out if the allegations are unfounded.
During the hearing, Sen. Kelly Ayotte asked Gen. Welsh to ensure that airmen and airwomen would be free to speak to their congressional representatives about their concerns without worrying about whether they would be subject to retribution.
The New Hampshire Republican said she was worried about the climate and tone that the Air Force may be setting for its service members in the wake of additional fiscal constraints and budget woes.
“I think this is very serious to accuse people of treason for communicating with Congress,” she said.
Ms. Ayotte also expressed concern over rumors that the Air Force has initiated an internal investigation into those service members who may have communicated with lawmakers.
“What I’m hearing, is that there’s actually an investigation going on in reverse, to find out who has communicated with Congress and, to me, that seems the opposite of what we would be trying to accomplish in looking at what Gen. Post said and whether it was lawful or not,” she said. “So I hope that there would be no punishment or any kind of pursuit of people trying to communicate with Congress.”
Gen. Welsh appeared flabbergasted by her allegations and said he would be “astonished” if that effort was underway.