A group of government watchdog and social advocacy groups are calling for Maj. Gen. James Post to be relieved of command for reportedly warning officers that they would be "committing treason" if they voiced support to Congress for keeping the A-10 in service.
"These comments undermine service members' constitutional rights to petition their government, and appear to violate statutory protections for military whistleblowers," the letter says. "Most importantly, they try to interfere with Congress's ability to learn how these systems are currently performing in combat to address current threats, precisely the kind of information they need to know to conduct their constitutional duties and to oversee the Air Force's operations and programs."
The advocates believe enough information is known for Post to be fired, or at least suspended pending the IG investigation's outcome, the letter says.
Air Force pilots have told POGO that they have been warned not to talk to Congress about several issues, but particularly the Air Force's plan to retire the A-10, Smithberger said.
"It's been something that has been difficult for us to document," she said. "Then this, unfortunately, has become a very clear example of what we've been hearing."
Asked about the letter, an Air Force spokesman said the IG investigation into Post's alleged remarks is a "high priority."
The military blog John Q. Public first reported that Post had warned officers against voicing support to Congress for keeping the A-10 flying.
"Anyone who is passing information to Congress about A-10 capabilities is committing treason," former Air Force officer Tony Carr quoted Post as saying.
"If true, this seems to indicate that there is a broader problem of a toxic culture against whistleblowers," the letter says. "We urge you to ensure that no prohibited personnel actions are taken against any service members who have come forward, and to suspend or remove any officials found to be responsible for initiating retaliatory investigations."
The issue came up at a Jan. 28 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, when Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. said she has heard the Air Force has launched an investigation to "reverse find out who has communicated with Congress" about why the A-10 should stay in service.
Chief of Staff Gen. Marl Welsh responded that he was unaware of such an investigation.
"I would be astonished by that," Welsh said. And certainly I'm not part of it, the secretary is not part of it, and I would not condone it."