A prominent lawmaker is calling for an investigation of a major general's reported comments blasting officers as treasonous if they work with Congress against Air Force plans to retire the A-10.
Maj. Gen. James Post, vice commander of Air Combat Command, reportedly told officers at a recent meeting of the Tactics Review Board at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, that they were not to speak with Congress about the service's attempt to retire the attack jet.
"Anyone who is passing information to Congress about A-10 capabilities is committing treason," Post is quoted by former airman and blogger Tony Carr as saying.
Post reportedly prefaced his comments by saying "if anyone accuses me of saying this, I will deny it," according to Carr's "John Q. Public" blog.
Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who wants to keep the A-10 in service, has called on Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to investigate the reported comments, McCain spokesman Dustin Walker told Air Force Times.
The A-10's biggest supporter on Capitol Hill, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., told Air Force Times in a statement that she is "deeply disturbed" by the reported comments.
"U.S. law clearly states that 'No person may restrict a member of the armed forces in communicating with a member of Congress.' The Constitution defines treason as levying war against the United States in providing aid and comfort to our enemies," Ayotte said in the statement. "How could members of the armed forces exercising their lawful right to communicate with Congress be providing aid and comfort to our enemies? If the facts are on the Air Force's side regarding its efforts to prematurely divest the A-10, what does the Air Force fear?"
Air Combat Command said it does not have a transcript of the general's comments. However, his "use of hyperbole" was intended to prove a point, the command said in a statement.
"The Air Force decision on recommended actions/strategic choices for the constrained fiscal environment has been made and the service's position communicated," ACC said in a statement. "While subsequent government debate will continue at the highest levels as those recommendations and other options are evaluated, our job as airmen is to continue to execute our mission and duties – certainly our role as individual military members is not to engage in public debate or advocacy for policy."
The general's comments recognize ACC's responsibility to organize, train and equip while "preparing for tomorrow's challenges," the statement said.
Post "is not restricting nor implying to restrict members of the Air Force in communicating with members of Congress," ACC spokeswoman Maj. Genieve David said. "Additionally we recognize there are better ways for military members to advocate for policy changes. We encourage the use of veteran service organizations to be the voice in lobbying on Capitol Hill versus individual engagements in public debate or advocacy for policy."
Last fall, the largest group of current and retired tactical air control party airmen entered the debate, publicly calling on Congress to block the retirement of the A-10 and urging the Air Force to reconsider its plan. The group's president, retired Master Sgt. Charlie Keebaugh, said a gathering of current and retired airmen opposed the planned cuts.
Air Force officials said last week that the proposed fiscal 2016 budget, expected to be released in early February, will attempt to cut entire fleets of aircraft again, though they would not specifically name the A-10. The move to cut the plane is driven by budget cuts, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said.
"It's not about not liking or not wanting the A-10," Welsh said. "It's about some very tough decisions that we have to make to recapitalize the Air Force for the threat 10 years from now."
The A-10, however, is the best aircraft for facing the country's enemies now, Ayotte said. "The truth is that preventing the premature retirement of the A-10 does not aid our enemies, it perpetuates their worst nightmare," she said.