By facsimile to: 202.224.1388The Honorable Carl LevinChairman, Committee on Armed ServicesUnited States Senate269 Russell Senate Office BuildingWashington, DC 20510By facsimile to: 202.228.2862The Honorable John McCainRanking Member, Committee on Armed ServicesUnited States Senate241 Russell Senate Office BuildingWashington, DC 20510March 30, 2011Dear Senators Levin and McCain:We are writing to express our deep concern about troubling developments within theDepartment of Defense legal community.
As you may be aware, political appointees within the Pentagon’s legal bureaucracy have,
over the past 20 years, regularly attempted to limit the professional independence of militaryjudge advocates.
DoD’s political legal establishment has att
empted to muzzle and subjugate
military lawyers by executive fiat and multiple “hostile takeover” efforts to bring them under the
direct control and supervision of the appointees.Fortunately, those attempts have failed, though only through repeated Congressionalintervention to make it clear to the Department of Defense that Congress wants independent JAGCorps that can provide apolitical, objective and unbiased legal advice from a military perspective
to commanders, free of an administration’s political
spin du jour.Congressional wisdom regarding the need for independent military legal advice wasunequivocally demonstrated once again several years ago. Judge advocates cried foul when thepolitical powers wanted them to fall in line to support highly suspect legal interpretationsregarding military commissions and treatment of detainees. The Supreme Court and otherfederal courts that subsequently examined those issues vindicated the military lawyers in everycase. The JAGs were right. The political lawyers were wrong.The Air Force JAG Corps led the way in that particular effort to keep the military on theright side of the law. Following that episode, Congress enacted a provision that prohibits DoDpersonnel from interfering with independent JAG advice. In Washington, of course, the politicalbureaucracy never forgets a slight.Given this troubling history and against this backdrop, we cannot help but beextraordinarily concerned about the decision announced earlier this month by DoD to gut the Air
Force JAG Corps leadership by specifically eliminating three of the Corps’ four brigadier
general (one-star) positions. The deleted billets are the chief legal advisors to the commanders of
the Air Force’s three most important major commands, those respo
nsible for air combatoperations, airlift and logistics.In making this decision, DoD political appointees summarily overruled or ignored theprotests of the Air Force Secretary, Chief of Staff, and other Air Force leaders.Although the order eliminated a number of flag billets in other career fields throughout
the Department of Defense, the “cover story” for the targeted USAF JAG cuts (significant costsavings) simply doesn’t hold water.
The Defense Department will realize less than $50K annual