Skip to comments.Senator Blocks 850 Air Force Promotions
Posted on 06/09/2003 12:30:39 PM PDT by tomball
Senator Blocks 850 Air Force Promotions By ERIC SCHMITT
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.
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, from young captains and majors to 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."
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."
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
It WAS a silly local issue - until he took it national...
Holding the careers of miltary personnel hostage over pork is hardly a "silly local issue." If we let Craig get away with this, what's to stop say, Sheets Byrd from pulling something similar when he wants his name on yet another piece of concrete in W. Virginia? Will it seem such a "silly local issue" then?
Sorry, this is hardly a "silly local issue". It's blackmail, or extortion ... and it's below contempt. I'd expect this kind of moral bankrupt behavior from a Democrat, but not a Republican.
Me thinks Mr. Craig will be changing his position right shortly. :)
There's already enough C-130s in the National Guard inventory to let you walk wing-to-wing from Maine to Ireland. If Senator Craig want his C-130's this bad, he can roast in the sun until Idaho gets an allocation of planes in the normal, annual Defense appropriations.
I would imagine that it's a safe bet that the DOD does not see that new C-130s for Idaho as necessary to their core mission. It's just a matter of playing chicken between seats of power. DOD with C-130s in one corner vs. the Senator with Promotions in the other.
You bet. I want him gone, and I don't care how conservative he is. If Sen. Byrd had pulled this stunt you would rightfully be livid.
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