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Retired USAF JAG general officers' letter to the SASC regarding the elimination of 3 of the 4 1-star USAF JAG billets.
Retired USAF JAG general officers' letter to the SASC regarding the elimination of 3 of the 4 1-star USAF JAG billets.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: National Institute of Military Justice on Apr 11, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 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
The Honorable Carl LevinThe Honorable John McCainMarch 30, 2011Page 2
savings from downgrading the positions.
That’s a mere trifle compared to the cost of the literally
unbridled growth of Senior Executive Service positions (the civilian equivalent of flag rank)
assigned to the political lawyers’ own offices over the past several y
ears. By the way, not asingle one of those expensive SES billets was touched by the edict in question.
Likewise, DoD’s alternative rationale (to equalize rank structure among the Service JAG
corps) is absurd on its face. None of the other Service JAG Corps took such a hit.The impact on the Air Force as a whole, and on its JAG Corps in particular, will bedevastating. Indeed, given the obvious absence of a rational basis, these cuts will be interpretedas sending an extraordinarily strong and unambiguous message to military lawyers of all ranksand Services.
“Regardless of what Congress may say or intend, you better fall in line with thelegal interpretations of the political appointees . . . or else!”
 Legal considerations, as General Petraeus and other commanders have often noted, havebecome critically important to the operational success of our forces in the field. Make nomistake about it, the military is a hierarchical system based on rank. To signal a marginalizationof the military legal profession by downgrading its leaders sends all the wrong messages tofriend and foe alike. Eroding the authority of the military officers tasked with providing the kindof objective, expert, and sometimes brutally frank legal advice is a formula for repeating thestunning legal misjudgments of past political ideologues, who so undermined that for which oursoldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have sacrificed so much.Congress has in the past acted to protect the legal independence of military judgeadvocates by specifying in statute not only flag grade of the Judge Advocate Generals andDeputy Judge Advocate Generals of all the Services, but also three Army JAG Corps brigadiergeneral positions. Unless DoD reverses its troubling and profoundly unwise decision in this
matter, we urge the Congress to provide the same protection to the Air Force’s JAG Corps.
 Very respectfully,/s/ Jack L. RivesLt Gen, USAF (Ret)Judge Advocate General2006
2010/s/ Nolan SkluteMaj Gen, USAF (Ret)Judge Advocate General1993 - 1996/s/ Andrew M. Egeland, Jr.Maj Gen, USAF (Ret)Deputy Judge Advocate General1993
The Honorable Carl LevinThe Honorable John McCainMarch 30, 2011Page 3
/s/ Joseph G. LynchMaj Gen, USAFR (Ret)/s/ Thomas L. HemingwayBrig Gen, USAF (Ret)Staff Judge Advocate, Air Mobility Command1991 - 1996/s/ Joseph R. LowryBrig Gen, USAF (Ret)Staff Judge Advocate, Air Force Logistics Command1977 - 1982/s/ Edward F. Rodriguez, Jr.Brig Gen, USAFR (Ret)/s/ James W. SwansonBrig Gen, USAF (Ret)Staff Judge Advocate, Air Mobility Command2000 - 2003The general officers whose names appear below join in this letter.Thomas B. BrutonMaj Gen, USAF (Ret)Judge Advocate General1980
1985Bryan G. HawleyMaj Gen, USAF (Ret)Judge Advocate General1996
1999Robert W. NorrisMaj Gen, USAF (Ret)Judge Advocate General1985
1988Walter D. ReedMaj Gen, USAF (Ret)Judge Advocate General1977

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