NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — An Air Force investigation determined that the vice commander of Air Combat Command effectively attempted to restrict airmen from lawfully communicating with members of Congress when he told hundreds of airmen that anyone who passes information to Congress about the aging A-10 Warthog’s capabilities is committing treason, according to a report released Friday.
The Air Force Inspector General launched an investigation into Maj. Gen. James Post after receiving a tip about the comments he made during a question and answer session at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, in January. The only question Post was asked was about the future of the A-10. Air Force leadership wants to retire the 1970s era A-10 in favor of funding the high-tech F-35 fighter, but Congress has refused to go along with the plan.
The investigation found that Post preceded his comments about treason by saying that if anyone reports that he said it, he’d deny it. Within days, Post’s comments began making their way onto blogs and social media and were picked up by some news outlets. Arizona Sen. John McCain’s office requested an investigation, as did a tipster to the Defense Department’s Inspector General’s office.
Post later told an Air Force investigator that he never said or meant to imply that a member of the armed forces could not go to Congress, or that one who did would commit treason.
“My only intent was to instill loyalty in the audience,” he said, according to the investigation report.
Still, the investigation found that his words had the effect of attempting to prevent some members of the military from lawfully communicating with members of Congress.
Following the investigation, Air Combat Command Gen. Hawk Carlisle issued a letter of reprimand to Post, which can damage his future career prospects. Post was also reassigned to a different position on Air Combat Command’s staff, which is based at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.
“Given the fact the A-10 issue continues to be an emotional topic … All parties felt it would be best if he continued to serve the Air Force in a different capacity,” said Capt. A.J. Schrag, an Air Combat Command spokesman.
According to the investigation report, Post said he was being facetious and that the crowd laughed when he said he’d deny the comments.
“It was only an attempt to bring levity into the discussion because I believed it was essential for the members in the audience to listen and understand the importance of the Air Force’s decision with respect to the future of the A-10,” Post told investigators.
“I said I could relate with those passionate about their assigned weapon system, but unfortunately fiscal reality wouldn’t allow us to do both-continue flying the A-10 while bringing the F-35 to operational capability. I said that the internal (AF) discussion and debate was over.”
According to Post’s comments to investigators, he said for those in uniform to do anything contrary to what the Air Force’s top leaders have directed would be “disloyal, or some might say institutional treason (or words to that effect.)”
Despite Post’s comments that there was no intent to try to keep airmen from contacting Congress, the investigation found a reasonable person would conclude Post did not want airmen going to Congress and would feel restricted from doing so.
“I hope this unfortunate incident will eliminate any doubt regarding the legal right of a service member to lawfully communicate with Congress about the A-10 or any other issue of concern,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a statement.
Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis
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