Skip to comments.Senator Blocks 850 Promotions in the Air Force
Posted on 06/08/2003 7:45:48 PM PDT by Pokey78
WASHINGTON, June 8 Senator Larry E. Craig of Idaho is blocking the promotions of more than 850 Air Force officers, including young pilots who fought in Iraq and the general nominated to bail out the scandal-plagued United States Air Force Academy, in a rare clash between the Pentagon and a senior Republican lawmaker.
Mr. Craig's price to free the frozen promotions now awaiting final Senate approval? Four C-130 cargo planes for the Idaho Air National Guard.
Pentagon officials express outrage that for more than a month Mr. Craig has single-handedly delayed the careers of hundreds of officers and stymied important Air Force business for a handful of parochial planes. They are vowing not to give in to his pressure. Calling the move blackmail, one senior military official said, "If we say yes to this, Katie bar the door." The official, like others contacted for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity, fearing retribution from the senator.
But Mr. Craig contends that the Air Force has reneged on a promise made seven years ago to station a squadron of eight C-130's at Gowen Field, an Air National Guard base in Boise, his spokesman said. There are now four C-130's and another training aircraft based there. "This is a problem created by the Air Force that can be easily solved by the Air Force," Will Hart, the spokesman, said.
In the courtly world of the Senate, Mr. Craig's hardball tactics have angered and frustrated even some of his Republican colleagues, including Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee and has tried to mediate the dispute. The committee approved most of the promotions weeks ago. Mr. Warner declined through a spokesman to comment on the issue.
Under a Senate practice intended to encourage consensus, any senator can block action indefinitely and anonymously on a nomination, promotion or legislation. These secret holds are used frequently by senators of both parties to express displeasure not necessarily with a nominee but with an administration's action or policy. But military promotions are typically whisked through the approval process without objection. A former military official disclosed the dispute over the planes to The New York Times.
Four years ago, Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, then the majority leader, blocked the final confirmation of Richard C. Holbrooke to be chief diplomat to the United Nations. Mr. Lott's demand? That President Bill Clinton appoint a conservative Ohio law school professor to the Federal Election Commission.
But in recent years, the anonymous holds have proliferated to the point where some senators are pushing for new guidelines to identify any senator who delays a nomination or promotion. The Senate Rules Committee, now led by Mr. Lott, has scheduled a hearing on the issue for June 17.
Mr. Craig's action has been felt throughout the Air Force, especially within its senior ranks, where the promotions or new-job nominations for more than two dozen generals are in a holding pattern with no end in sight.
Gen. Robert H. Foglesong, who has been picked to be commander of all American air forces in Europe, is cooling his heels in Washington in his current job as vice chief of staff of the Air Force.
Lt. Gen. T. Michael Moseley, who commanded allied air forces in the Iraq war, is waiting to receive his fourth star and succeed General Foglesong as the vice chief of staff.
Maj. Gen. John W. Rosa Jr. was tapped to pin on a third star and be in place as the new superintendent of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs by last month. But his assignment is still in limbo. Brig. Gen. John A. Weida, the academy's commandant, is filling the position until General Rosa's promotion is approved.
Military officials say to give in to Mr. Craig now would only invite more holds from other senators.
"We obviously can't operate like that," another senior military official said. "Idaho is a great state, but we can't put more planes in there without taking them out of somewhere else." The official called the holds a misuse of the confirmation process.
Why after seven years Mr. Craig is exercising his Senate prerogative now to delay these promotions is a bit of a mystery. The planes have not been a pressing concern for most of his constituents.
"It's not something people here are tapping their fingers over, waiting for them to show up," said Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, spokesman for the Idaho National Guard.
Mr. Hart would say only that "Senator Craig's record of overwhelming support for the military speaks for itself" and blamed the Air Force leadership for disclosing his hold "as some sort of strategy to renege on promises made to Senator Craig."
A buildup of the guard forces could help shield Gowen Field from a new round of military base closings scheduled to be decided in 2005. Increasing the number of C-130's at the field could make it a less attractive installation to close, defense officials said. Gowen's C-130's returned in January from a tour in Oman, where they supported operations in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.
Several states are organizing committees to defend their military bases, which provide jobs and lucrative Pentagon contracts to local communities. "What a lot of people are trying to do is extort such-and-such a service at such-and-such a base to BRAC-proof their base," one senior defense official said, using the acronym for the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which would recommend such closings.
As for Mr. Craig, defense officials say their arguments have so far fallen on deaf ears. "We've tried to explain the facts of life to Senator Craig that the Air Force is getting smaller, not bigger," one official said.
Gen. John W. Handy of the Air Force, the head of United States Transportation Command, which controls all transport aircraft, met with Mr. Craig in Washington on May 23 to broker an end to the stalemate, but apparently to no avail. Said one defense official, "Craig is essentially saying, pound sand."
And the worst part is, no other senators give a d--n.
Either that or activate all Idaho National Guard units and send them overseas UNTIL Craig relents. Maybe after 2 or 3 years of overseas duty he will want his people back rather than a few planes.
They earned it, so give them their damn promotions already and stop punishing them for the sins of their superiors..
I don't like that idea..
Again, it's punishing the wrong people.
These are good men who shouldn't be abused like this. This is a battle that should be fought between the senator and the AF PTB's.
True, but I think there's a more basic problem here, that being a Senate that seems to think that it is the only part of the US government that matters. I for one am getting real sick and tired of this body's "too big for their britches" attitude, an attitude that crosses the aisle.
The establishment in this article of a Sen. Craig "hold" is based solely on the credibility of the source. The source in this case is the NY Times quoting anonymous sources.
NYTIMES: Pentagon officials express outrage that for more than a month Mr. Craig has single-handedly delayed the careers of hundreds of officers and stymied important Air Force business for a handful of parochial planes. They are vowing not to give in to his pressure. Calling the move blackmail, one senior military official said, "If we say yes to this, Katie bar the door." The official, like others contacted for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity, fearing retribution from the senator.
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