"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Monday, December 30, 2013

Glenn Greenwald - A Great American

I've posted stuff about Glenn Greenwald previously, and about how after a few email exchanges between Glenn and myself, my wife and I got to meet and chat with him.

He is an exceptional American.  Not only is his legal pedigree top notch, but his moral pedigree is amazing.

He is truly a great American, and the video above should be required viewing for all military officers who wish to make good on their oath to the Constitution, and who wish to emulate principle and courage.

Bar talk is no substitute for the real thing.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

PSDM 13-130 & The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Let's hope that the reason PSDM 13-130 was not uploaded onto MyPers was because leadership is amending it to clean it up, and hopefully change what is ugly inside it.

So while this guidance is subject to change (and let's hope it does in several areas), here is the good, the bad, and the ugly from my point of view:

UPDATE:  The PSDM was changed, you can see what changed here.

The Good:

If you are eligible for the Reduction in Force (RIF) board, and you meet it, you will be able to write a ten page single sided letter to the board.  A well written letter explaining your value, your performance, and your record is huge - whether your desire is to leave the service with separation pay, or to be retained and continue to serve.

Depending on if you're one of the many hoping to be eligible to be let out of the service, or one of the many hoping to still have a job in a year, there are certain year groups that are eligible for the Reduction in Force (RIF) and certain year groups that are not.  Your year group is determined by your Total Active Federal Commissioned Service Date (TAFCSD) which can be found in vMPF (but which should not be trusted, as discussed later).  The document does not, however, indicate if the year group goes by calendar year or fiscal year (ie, would an individual with a TAFCSD of 15 Nov 2000 be in the 2000 year group, or the 2001 year group)?  Common sense would indicate it's based on calendar year, but it's not clear.  Fortunately, the PSDM directs the reader to AFI 36-2604.  Unfortunately, that regulation doesn't appear to exist anymore.

With the same caveats as above, certain AFSCs are eligible and certain ones are not.  The matrix of year groups and AFSCs that are, and are not, eligible has yet to be released.

According to the PSDM, "RIF-eligible officers with 15 or more and less than 18 years Total Active Federal Military Service (TAFMS) are eligible to apply for TERA."  This would seem to mean that if you're not eligible for TERA (and have at least fifteen years of service), you don't have to worry about being eligible for the RIF.  Or, to put it another way, no matter what it says on the TERA matrix, if you are RIF-eligible, you are eligible for TERA.  But it's not entirely clear.  Fortunately, the individual emails (discussed later) should clear it all up.  Hopefully.

The PSDM somewhat seems to indicate that new AFSCs won't be added to the list down this year's road.  It states, "AFSCs may be removed from eligibility with little or no notice based upon the needs of the Air Force."  Since it says nothing about adding AFSCs, that might be a good sign for those wishing to remain in the service.

Despite the confusion, there seems to be a built in date to make it clear and it's just around the corner.  The PSDM says "Approximately 31 Dec 13, the officers meeting the RIF and eligible for VSP will be notified by personal email through the virtual MPF" and later states, "MPS suspense to distribute OPBs with instructions to eligible officers is 14 Feb 14.”  Folks should have some sense of what lies before them in a couple of days, and certainly within the next six weeks.

Finally, depending on your desires, being too young or too old in your career might be good for you.  The PSDM says of the RIF that, "Officers with less than six years of Total Active Federal Commissioned Service (TAFCS) as of the mandatory separation date or with 18 years or more of Total Active Federal Military Service (TAFMS) as of the mandatory DOS are ineligible."  The mandatory DOS is 31 Jan 15.

The Bad:

Despite the assurance that those who are RIF eligible will also be eligible for TERA (assuming they have fifteen years), the fact is there are two separate matrices.  There is a released TERA eligibility matrix by AFSC and year group, and another RIF eligibility matrix by AFSC and year group that has not yet been released.  If those who are RIF eligible are also eligible for TERA, then why not have only one matrix?  It would be unfortunate to see those ineligible for TERA all of the sudden being told they are eligible for the RIF, but it does bring up memories of recent history.  And the document doesn't fail to mention that, "AFSCs and Year Groups considered are determined based on Air Force needs."

The policy says that those who are eligible for the RIF board will be eligible for VSP.  It's not clear if that means eligible to apply for VSP, where they can be denied and then RIF'd (as has happened in recent memory), or if it means you can elect VSP rather than meet the RIF board.  Hopefully this gets clarified.

The discussion of Date of Separation (DOS) could be clarified.  The document states that, "Officers with an approved DOS after the mandatory separation date of 31 Jan 15 will remain eligible for RIF consideration and if not selected for retention, their DOS will be re-established as of the mandatory DOS date."  Common sense would indicate this means that if you are eligible for the RIF, having a DOS after 31 Jan 15 will not change that fact.  A clarification might keep folks from wondering if their DOS after 31 Jan 15 actually makes them eligible for the RIF on its own.

Those trying to make sense of information will probably run to vMPF or AMS to generate a SURF and see where they stand.  Not so fast!  The document states that people need to "...receive an OPB and not an MPS-generated SURF or AMS product, as the two products do not contain the same information. Use AFPROMS to order all OPBs."  It's unfortunate that with all the confusion, the MPS generated SURF and AMS products can show conflicting information.  Perhaps those systems should be corrected so they are standardized and accurate, or scrapped in the name of saving money.  Folks will want to make sure they verify their core AFSC and year group using this AFPROMS system.  Unfortunately, it's not clear whether or not members can access this data themselves, and may instead have to rely on their leadership to do this.

The Ugly - And Boy is It Ugly:

Unlike enlisted folks, officers who are booted from the RIF board, and who have at least fifteen years of service, will not be offered TERA on the way out the door (or at least the PSDM fails to mention this fact, unlike the PSDM for enlisted programs).  While those who are RIF eligible with fifteen plus years of service are able to apply for TERA (with no guarantee it won't be denied, followed by them being booted from the RIF), there is no safety net should worse come to worse for officers.  This is a particularly ugly part of the policy, in that the Air Force has made it clear that officers merit less for their service than the enlisted folks they were responsible to lead.  It's good that the Air Force is going to offer this to the enlisted force.  It's the right thing to do.

But not doing the same for the officer corps is just plain wrong.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Download PSDM 13-130 Here - Air Force Officer RIF/VSP

After putting the word out, it didn't take long for somebody to send me the PSDM 13-130 that I asked about yesterday.  Apparently it wasn't "supposed" to be released already, but it was - just not to everybody so they could all make informed decisions.  That's a foul.

Unlike PSDM 13-131, this PSDM is not marked For Official Use Only (FOUO) so you can download the document here.

NOTE: The 24 Jan 14 updated "official" PSDM 13-130 has been released, is still not FOUO, and can be downloaded here.

Sadly, the Case of "Officers Being Treated Worse Than Those They Lead" has been solved, and what the evidence shows is that the Air Force is in fact giving enlisted folks TERA if it boots them out with more than fifteen years, but it is NOT giving TERA to officers it boots out with more than fifteen years.

That is a serious double standard.  I don't have the energy right now to delve into a policy where those who shoulder the burden of a commission are not treated in the same manner as the enlisted members they were responsible to lead.  Not today anyway, but I hope to tackle it in another post.  But while I'm glad that enlisted folks with more than fifteen years are rightfully given a partial retirement before being shown the door after decades of war, this policy not also being applied to officers is a double standard that definitely deserves a double facepalm.

The bottom line appears to be this...  Serving as a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force merits less than serving as an enlisted member.  We truly are in an Alice in Wonderland world.

Amazing times we live in.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Where in the World is PSDM 13-130?

People claim to have seen it.  They say so on the world wide web, so it must be true.  Some claim to have gotten it emailed to them by those in the know.  Others claim to have seen this mysterious document floating in a lake in Scotland, while still others swear they saw the tracks of this somewhat-important-to-folks guidance making huge foot prints deep in the woods.  It's all a huge mystery, and it's hard to separate fact from fiction, reality from conspiracy theory, because PSDM 13-130 still has not been uploaded to the MyPers website!!

Uploading it to MyPers for people to see would take all of ten seconds and two button clicks.  Seriously.  That's all it would take.  Ripley's Believe it or Not.

Oh where, oh where, is this document on Air Force Force Shaping of officers in 2014?

If the intent was to arm people with information in a timely manner over the holidays, might I recommend actually arming them with the information?  Since it has been released to some people, wouldn't it make more sense to release it to all people?  Or perhaps only the people that have seen this document days ahead of everybody else are going to face separation programs?  It's a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Or, wait a second, could it be?  Is it possible this is a clever introduction to what this mysterious PSDM 13-130 will have to offer?  Is this meant to demonstrate beyond words, on a psychological level, that the Air Force has decided to treat some people differently than others, not unlike those connected few who have access to this guidance ahead of time?  What titillating news is to be found inside this sought after Adobe product?

Could it be that the Air Force is going to kick out continued officers with more than fifteen years of service via the RIF, and NOT give them TERA as a consolation prize?  Despite the fact the Air Force is giving enlisted folks TERA if they are booted with more than fifteen years?

Now that would be a mystery worth solving!  Let's call it the Case of "Officers Being Treated Worse Than Those They Lead" and hope some crack detective gets on it.  Perhaps they will take the case for a handful of DFAC Scooby Snacks.

But this may just be much about nothing.  Hard to know.  All we can do is speculate and guess.  Because the existing guidance is being kept from us.  Or slow rolled.  Who knows, it's just a big mystery as the Air Force seeks to boot a bunch of meddlesome kids.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thanks for the Relay NORAD!

It appears the message got through to Santa.  I went to a Town Hall today and got some more information on the questions on my Christmas list:
Dear Santa,

1.  Since the announcement stated that enlisted who were RIF'd with more than 15 years will automatically be offered Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA), and since that same detail was for some reason not provided for officers RIF'd with more than 15 years in...  Well....  Will it be offered for officers, too?

2.  Since the announcement stated that enlisted force shaping boards would not consider those who would have eighteen years of service by the mandatory separation date since they would be in "sanctuary," and since the same details were not offered for officers who would be separated with eighteen plus years...  Well...  Will officers also be considered to be in sanctuary if the separation date puts them at eighteen years and therefore also spared the RIF?

3.  Are pilots going to be denied TERA yet again in January (because they're hacking the mish in not-overmanned-career fields with less than stellar manning unlike those officers being offered TERA), only to months later find that 550 jets were cut from the inventory afterward, making them magically (and without any previous knowledge, of course) eligible for the RIF?  Or are pilots so "bored" that they will be considered overmanned and allowed the same opportunity as other officers in January?
What Santa today said was:

1.  Officer involuntary/voluntary programs will target officers in "overage populations" (by AFSC and year group).

2.  Enlisted folks who are not retained after a board, who have more than 15 years of service, will NOT be offered TERA.  This contradicts recent guidance on MyPers:
- Quality Force Review Board (QFRB). The... TERA will be offered to Airmen with at least 15 years of service who are not retained....

 - Enlisted Retention Boards. The... TERA will be offered to Airmen with at least 15 years of service before the board and to similarly eligible Airmen who are not retained...
I'm going to track down if this really true or not.  If not, I'll continue to ask whether the same offer of TERA will be made to officers who are not retained from the RIF.

3.  My second question from my list was answered, and it was shown on page/slide eight of a powerpoint slideshow.  The RIF board for officers will not consider officers who will have eighteen years of service as of January, 2015, just like the enlisted boards.

4.  The list of those eligible to apply for TERA has been created, but has been put on hold for some reason.  Expect notifications to come if you are eligible for the program.

Santa's slides with more information can be found here.   These slides have not yet been verified by AFPC, though the question has been asked, so it's possible one wing got it wrong (though I doubt it in this case).
I'll continue to find and verify information, and then update this blog post.  Thanks for the quick turn around Santa!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Americans Break Promise with the Military? Or the Other Way Around?

I've watched the budget "debate" unfold up until today, when Congress passed a military retiree pay cut and sent the bill to be signed by the President.  During that time I've also talked with average Americans about their support of cutting from the paychecks of military retirees, and those discussions reinforced my previous view.  Many Americans simply do not care about keeping their promise to those who wield violence in their names.  Somehow they have internalized false messages rather than facts, as they seemingly do every election, and have come to see military pensions as having caused the deficit and even the downfall of Detroit.  Everything must be on the table they say, repeating that message like some farm animals repeat "four legs good, two legs bad!"  But what is most striking is how easily they dismiss the idea of keeping good on your promises.

It is as if the average American has found a much more destructive way to spit on the troops, after they come home from war.  The real shame of it all, is the lack of trust that comes from breaking promises.  That lack of trust is dangerous for America.

To be fair, the military makes a promise too.  That's what creates the contract, and there are services that must be rendered to earn military retirement benefits.  You know, to well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which you enter.  Military members promise to support and defend the constitutional rights of Americans, and to not violate those rights even when so ordered and even when their career, their convenience, and their liberty is on the line.  Doing the right thing is difficult, just as resisting the urge to legally steal from somebody else is difficult when the financial chips are down.  Of course, it is apparent that few in the military make good on those promises.  The National Security Agency (NSA) violates the rights of Americans by the millions on a daily basis.  More frighteningly, the military fails its oath when ordered to assassinate American citizens without charge or trial.  So has the military been faithful in delivering services rendered?  Can it possibly be faithful when it kills innocent Americans and deprives them of life without so much as their American right to a jury trial?

Perhaps this breaking a promise with those who serve in the military, is a result of the military first breaking its promise to America?

That's not at all what I hear from average Americans, but it would be a reason I would understand.  Sadly, it's not mentioned by those Americans who support the theft of military pensions.  What I have found is that the lack of trust comes from a mutually shared lack of morality.  Americans care as little for their rights as those who serve in their name, and are just as quick to break their word for their own benefit.

Still, this latest legislative move won't help build trust between the People and those who promise to support and defend their constitutional rights.  It won't help defend this nation, and it won't help defend our rights that are being savagely attacked on a daily basis.  It will not help fix a military that is ethically and professionally in critical need of being repaired.

This is a very bad development in a sea of very bad developments.

Santa Delivers Vague RIF Presents for the Holidays

General Welsh, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force (CSAF), said the other day of the force shaping bomb shell that was released on airmen, one day prior to learning their retirement benefits were on the way to being chopped, and several days prior to the holidays that, "...our belief is we need to put the guidance out as early as possible so they have a chance to think through the impact on them or the potential impact on them if they're eligible for any of these particular force-shaping measures."

And yet as I look around the internet and talk to folks, I see and hear more confusion than anything.  Who is affected exactly?  I hope that while NORAD is tracking Santa, it can relay him a message and ask him to provide a little detail, rather than a generic feeling of everybody is being fired, for airmen to share with their loved ones. 
But I realize Santa is busy, so I just have three questions on my Christmas list that I would like to get answered before next Halloween.  I mean, since the details were strangely left out of the officer program and yet supplied to the much larger enlisted force (at least more details).  Somebody I know tried emailing Santa's workshop at AFPC using the digital My-Pers-NorthPole website, but the answer they got was "Santa will tell you based on if you're naughty or nice at a time and place of his choosing, and based on his view of naughty and nice."  The MyPers folks didn't actually say that, but they did answer the question with something along the lines of, "that information will be released in the future."

Nice.  Very comforting.

So since Santa is busy figuring out how he will steal presents he promised to good little boys and girls who fulfilled their ends of mutually agreed upon contracts by being good all (twenty+) year[s], I'll just post my questions here.  I am expecting coal in the stocking, as most of us have come to expect from big blue Santa.  Fortunately for me personally, I haven't believed in Santa since the second grade.  But I could be wrong, so my Christmas list is for three simple answers in a timely fashion.

Dear Santa,

1.  Since the announcement stated that enlisted who were RIF'd with more than 15 years will automatically be offered Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA), and since that same detail was for some reason not provided for officers RIF'd with more than 15 years in...  Well....  Will it be offered for officers, too?

2.  Since the announcement stated that enlisted force shaping boards would not consider those who would have eighteen years of service by the mandatory separation date since they would be in "sanctuary," and since the same details were not offered for officers who would be separated with eighteen plus years...  Well...  Will officers also be considered to be in sanctuary if the separation date puts them at eighteen years and therefore also spared the RIF?

3.  Are pilots going to be denied TERA yet again in January (because they're hacking the mish in not-overmanned-career fields with less than stellar manning unlike those officers being offered TERA), only to months later find that 550 jets were cut from the inventory afterward, making them magically (and without any previous knowledge, of course) eligible for the RIF?  Or are pilots so "bored" that they will be considered overmanned and allowed the same opportunity as other officers in January?

Thanks in advance for any questions you can answer, Santa.  I sure did appreciate the resiliency training the other day, and the discussion of how suicide in the military has increased dramatically over the years.  I'm sure this news right before the holidays, with limited details, will strike just the right tone!

Happy Holidays, and may the Reduction in Force bless us all - every one,


Monday, December 16, 2013

Spouses Unite with a Twitter Town Hall & The Wicker Amendment

A military spouses group has taken to a Twitter town hall about the military retirement thieving legislation pending a vote in the Senate.  A video discussion with the head of the group is available here.

Also, there has been some discussion of the Wicker Amendment that has been proposed in the Senate, which would strip the military retirement theft from the legislation.  It is also pending a vote in the Senate.

Additionally, it appears some mainstream media coverage has taken up the issue finally, albeit with a glaring inaccuracy that this bill will not affect current military retirees.  CNN got this wrong, as this legislation as is will affect current and future retirees.

Hat tip to Tony Carr for keeping folks informed.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Stolen Retirement - What Would Bud Day Do (WWBDD)?

The internet and social media is spinning as veterans absorb the fact that government is once again attempting to break its promise to military retirees.  This attempt comes not long after Colonel Bud Day crossed the fence for the final time.  Bud Day's accomplishments were many, and his heroism and patriotism is well known.  What some might not remember, however, is that one of his acts of patriotism was challenging the government in a federal lawsuit, after it welched on its promise to provide free health care for life to those who exchanged decades of service for a measure of health security after.

Bud Day, and a group of many other veterans, filed suit in a district court.  The district court dismissed their lawsuit on the grounds that the veterans did not prove that there was a contract between the government and military retirees.  The veterans appealed to the United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit in the case Schism v. United States.  A three judge panel ruled in favor of the veterans and overturned the district court ruling.

The government, however, requested en banc review and it was granted.  The appeal was then heard by all the judges of the court, and nearly three years later the full court reversed the ruling of the three judge panel and ruled against the veterans in a nine to four ruling.  A subsequent attempt by the veterans to be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) was denied.

In this blog post I intend to explore the reasoning of the 2002 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, to see what light it might shine on the legislation currently being considered by the Senate which would reduce retirement benefits to military veterans.  Key to this discussion will be what constitutes a contract between the government and its military personnel, just as it was when Colonel Day made the case.  The appeals court wrote in its opinion:
....plaintiffs assert, the government breached these implied-in-fact contracts by effectively denying them free care so they had to purchase Medicare Part B insurance in order to be treated by civilian doctors or obtain medications without paying fees because space was no longer available in military facilities where care and medications were free. We must decide whether the government is bound by those promises.

The government in its defense admitted that promises were made.  The court wrote:
To induce people to join the armed services during the World War II and Korean War era and make it a career, military recruiters, under the direction of superiors, orally promised recruits that if they served on active duty for at least 20 years, they would receive free lifetime medical care for themselves and their dependents. The government concedes such promises were made in good faith and relied upon.
The court mentions that the lower district court ruled against the veterans, "holding that because the promises were not authorized they are not enforceable."  In other words, the Department of Defense's mouth was writing checks that its congressional body could not cash, as Congress had passed no laws that made free health care for life a contract.  The court wrote:
The district court concluded that because no statute authorized these promises, no valid contract was formed between the government and plaintiffs (or other similarly-situated military retirees, i.e., those who entered service prior to 1956 and by 1995 were 65 or more years of age).
The court states from the onset of its opinion that, "The principal question before us is whether the promises made to the plaintiffs, older Air Force retirees, were within the authority of the Air Force Secretary..."  and then concludes, "Because 5 U.S.C. § 301 at most authorizes space-available treatment, and not free health insurance for life, we hold that the Air Force Secretary lacked the authority in the 1950s when plaintiffs joined to promise free and full medical care."

A pension, however, is established by congressional statute, unlike health care promises that were made unilaterally by the department of defense.  However, the court continues further with a very important section, stating:
Further, under long-standing Supreme Court precedent, "common-law rules governing private contracts have no place in the area of military pay," Bell v. United States, 366 U.S. 393, 401, 81 S.Ct. 1230, 6 L.Ed.2d 365 (1961), or pensions and hospital privileges, see Lynch v. United States, 292 U.S. 571, 577, 54 S.Ct. 840, 78 L.Ed. 1434 (1934) (citing United States v. Teller, 107 U.S. 64, 68, 2 S.Ct. 39, 27 L.Ed. 352 (1883) for the proposition that the grant of pensions and such privileges creates no vested right in the recipient and can be withdrawn or redistributed by Congress at any time). Thus military retiree compensation, including free military medical care and government-provided insurance, is controlled exclusively by statute, and so an action for breach of an implied-in-fact contract cannot lie. See id.
The court cites the SCOTUS decision from 1934 in Lynch v. United States, in which the nation's highest court ruled:
Pensions, compensation allowances and privileges are gratuities. They involve no agreement of parties; and the grant of them creates no vested right. The benefits conferred by gratuities may be redistributed or withdrawn at any time in the discretion of Congress. United States v. Teller, 107 U.S. 64, 68; Frisbie v. United States, 157 U.S. 160, 166; United States v. Cook, 257 U.S. 523, 527.
The appeals court then concluded its finding stating, "Accordingly, we... can do no more than hope Congress will make good on the promises recruiters made in good faith to plaintiffs and others of the World War II and Korean War era..."

Interesting times we live in.  We can keep the faith, and hope for the best.  We'll see where that gets us.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Theft is Afoot - Your Retirement Being Stolen Right Now

The House of Representatives passed the Ryan-Murray budget today, according to the Wall Street Journal.  It's on its way to the Senate next, and then when signed by the President, will mark the first theft from military retirees since health care promises were retracted many years ago.

The theft is in the form of decreasing the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) by one percentage point.  Currently COLA is set to match the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which adjusts for inflation, or the buying power of your retirement money.  Assuming a correct CPI, today a military retiree's pension of $700 a month will continue to buy $700 worth of goods over the years, even as inflation rises and destroys the buying power of the dollar.  But that is what the House of Representatives has voted to change today, and it matters.

And inflation will most certainly rise a great deal, as the government continues to print money out of thin air and purchase toys and pork with history's largest credit card.

This is how the government "saves" money - by ensuring that as they print money in the future to pay for whatever programs or wars or foreign aid packages, military retirees will get less money because their retirement paychecks will not be able to purchase $700 worth of goods any more.  Over time, military retirees who used to be able to pay for their mortgage, will have to come up with money from somewhere else to pay that same mortgage, as their paycheck will no longer rise to cover inflation.  Put another way, every single year the retirement benefits of retirees will go down.  Every single year, they will be able to purchase less with their retirement check than the year before.

In short, our government is poised to "save money" (in quotes because in reality it's simply diverting money to other pockets) by breaking its word, and by not owning up to the contract they made with those they have sent to fight and die for whatever reasons they dream up.  In bipartisan fashion, of course, which is easy for them to achieve when they really want.  They play the role of Republicans and Democrats only for a puppet show.  When they want something done, they get it done despite the manufactured drama.  There is only one party in reality, and we're not in it.

A contract is a contract.  Military folks give up a great deal for their benefits.  We were told our leadership would not break the faith, and would not touch the retirement benefits of actively serving or currently retired veterans, but would make changes to programs offered to the new person who considers military service.  We were told we'd be grandfathered from any changes.

We were told if we liked our mutually agreed upon contract, we could keep it.

If this bill passes and is signed into law, it will mark the greatest theft from military personnel since Bud Day lost the battle to keep the government from breaking its word on health care.  It will be theft, pure and simple.  I'll tell you one other thing about this move.  It will start at 1% and once that precedent is set, it will not long after become 2%, until your retirement paycheck no longer has the buying power to purchase anything resembling what you could purchase originally. At least you'll be able to take that to the bank.

To those who don't pay attention this might not seem all that bad.  It is.  But it will get much worse.  We in the military are merely chess pieces to the politicians, quiet and easily managed and manipulated, to be used and abused and discarded at their will without any concern for our laws or agreements.  But remember they care about the massive military suicide rate, they want us to be resilient, and they appreciate the sacrifices of our families.

When it helps them get elected.  Shameful.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Don't Say I Didn't Tell Ya - The RIF for 17+ Year Majors

Two years ago I called it.  I said that the Air Force would throw majors out after they gave nearly two decades of service during a time of continuous warfare, just prior to them cashing in on the Life on Layaway that an Air Force career requires.  People told me there was no way that the Air Force would do such a thing, and certainly they would not boot people with over fifteen years without giving them the early retirement.  But I knew better.  I've seen their moral calculations and I know their recipe.  Once the politicians started touting phrases like "break the faith," the writing was on the wall.

We have just learned today that the Air Force is planning to hold Reduction in Force (RIF) boards as part of its Force Management 2014 program, in a paragraph neatly, and tactically, tucked into a paragraph that appears to simply cover "voluntary separation pay:"
A reduction in force, or RIF, board will consider regular officers below the grade of lieutenant colonel who have served at least one year of active duty in their current grade, are not on a promotion list, and have six or more years total active commissioned service and less than 18 years of total active federal military service.

So what this announcement effectively means is that the Air Force is targeting continued majors with more than fifteen but less than eighteen years.  Just as I predicted, the service has now made it clear that it is poised, for the first time in history, to toss out continued majors just prior to them becoming retirement eligible.

It's an amazing development, especially given the strangely isolated continuation board that booted 157 majors at the fifteen year plus point because they were twice not promoted to Lt Col-- a blood bath that strangely, for some reason, was not repeated on subsequent boards.  But the service, while sparing majors during later continuation boards, has moved on to the very same officers who narrowly escaped the blood bath, and who were offered continuation after twice not getting promoted, and who accepted that continuation offer to retirement.  Why the focus on this particular year group?  Hasn't it been targeted enough?


What is even more interesting is that the service is touting Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA) for "overmanned" career fields, while putting on notice those in the critically manned careers that have been doing more with less for a decade or more--informing those in harder and less desirable and more utilized jobs that they will be booted with no retirement to show for it.  While the guys enjoying the banker's hours in overmanned careers walk away with a partial retirement, the warfighter will be on the street with nothing to show for it.  But, as I have mentioned previously, TERA is only being used as a public relations magical shield to make it seem like the service is offering early retirement to folks.  In reality, they are denying the vast majority of those who apply.  The Air Force Times is apparently read into the program, helping spread the illusion that people have the option to retire early instead of facing involuntary separation.  Hopefully they'll pick up on the hot tip that a RIF of continued majors is a historic event, and perhaps something worthy of reporting.

Another interesting tidbit is that all the boards equate the separation date with time in service, and do not consider those who would hit eighteen years of service as of the date of separation - folks in that boat are treated as having already hit sanctuary, so they don't face the board.  That's the case for all the boards, except for this historic RIF of majors with more than seventeen years, which does not set such a date.  It appears when it comes to this particular demographic of majors about to collect on a life time of sacrifice, some more "flexibility" with who can be pink slipped is desired.

So let me dispense with the mystery.  Remember those who volunteered for separation and were denied for being too critical, but then were months later kicked out with a much less severance pay?  That was foreshadowing, an appetizer if you will.  There will be majors with nearly eighteen years of service who will apply for the early retirement, will be denied because they are "too critical" or their career field is not "overmanned," and who will then be kicked out of the service.  But here is the real poetry of it.  They will be kicked out with a separation date that takes them just over eighteen years of total service.

Fortunately the Air Force appears to be giving early retirement to enlisted folks who get booted with seventeen years of service.  That's good leadership, and I am glad the enlisted are being protected with a sensible policy.  But that policy, strangely enough, is missing from the officer side of the house.  I guess rank really does have its privileges.

As I predicted previously in a blog post entitled, "Keep the Faith!" and as appears to unmistakably be the case now, the Air Force is planning to re-attack the undermanned officer year group that saw 157 majors booted after nearly two decades of service.

Well played Air Force.  Well played.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Update on Border Patrol Lawsuit

The district court ruled in the case, and its decision and reasoning can be read here.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Justin Pavoni - Immorally Claiming the Mantle of Morality?

The other day I blogged about Air Force Captain Justin Pavoni, an F-15E pilot who entered the realm of public discourse with a twenty minute video interview on the Ron Paul Channel.  In that interview, Captain Pavoni stated that while he is waiting for the Air Force to rule on his request to be discharged on moral grounds, he has in the interim decided that he will refuse to deploy in any combat operations.  I discussed his interview and gave my view, based on the interview, that his refusal to make good on his contract with the American taxpayer was more rooted in ideological or political disagreement than it was the result of a change in morality.

Since that blog post, I contacted Captain Pavoni.  We had several days of spirited private discussion.  The discussion did not shed any new light on his public video interview, and it did not change my views or conclusions.  Captain Pavoni and his wife (also an Air Force pilot requesting discharge on moral grounds) were invited to comment on this blog.

Captain Pavoni's story is very interesting to me, as it provides a valuable discussion of professionalism, ethics, the constitution, and the substance of not only being a commissioned military officer, but a public servant more broadly.  It's the topic of morality as it relates to military officers, that I would like to further explore in this blog post.

First, I would like to pose a hypothetical question.  Would a school teacher raised in a Christian Scientist family be acting morally, if they, after voluntarily entering a contract with a group of parents to educate and care for their children for a ten year term, to include administering medicine as required (swearing without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion), took $1,500,000, but then later refused to administer medicine? More simply, would it be moral for a person to violate a voluntary agreement, after monetary funds have been spent, because they personally disagreed with rendering mutually agreed upon services that are legal (but in their personal view, immoral)?

What if the contract explicitly stated that the school teacher could not simply quit?  Could the school teacher claim to be taking a moral position in violating a voluntary agreement, simply because they one day decided that it was immoral to give medicine to children to cure sickness, rather than to simply pray for healing?

When, if ever, does an individual's personal morality justify morally violating a promise made to another individual, or group of individuals, after they pay for agreed upon services?

Captain Justin Pavoni went to the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) at taxpayer expense.  It is very likely that while studying at this publicly funded institution, he spent more time than the average American studying the concept and nature of war, the role of aviation in warfare, and the effects of bombs and killing people on the ground using that technology.  After these years of study, it stands to reason that an average American, let alone one able to successfully get accepted to the Air Force Academy, would be able to come to terms with concepts like war, airplane, bombs, and death.  They likely would also understand that upon commissioning, they would be asked to swear an oath and provide a sincere commitment - one that did not have an "I changed my mind and quit" clause.  Is it possible that after all of this time and study, that Captain Pavoni did not sufficiently contemplate the nature of aerial warfare?  Is it possible that he could only understand these concepts after two deployments when he was actually flying an airplane, in war, dropping a bomb, and causing death?

I've never walked on hot coals.  Still, I think I can conceptualize what it would be like, and if somebody were to contract with me and give me a sum of money to walk across them - would I be justified in violating that contract after the first couple of steps, because it was only then that I experienced the displeasure of my feet burning?

Captain Pavoni completed his education and then spent years training to be a fighter pilot.  Some sources say this training costs the taxpayer as much as 6 million dollars, while other sources put the number closer to 3 million.  Captain Pavoni apparently completed flight training in 2008 and voluntarily incurred a ten year contract to fly for the Air Force at that point.  With his decision to refuse to render services, he has now shorted the American taxpayer by roughly 1.5 million dollars for failing to render services for the last five or so years of his contract.

He maintains that since his four years of military education at a prestigious school, and after his military flight training, that he has recently come to the conclusion that flying military combat aircraft in combat is immoral.

What is morality?  It depends on who you ask, of course.  Some derive their moral code from religious texts and others, like Ayn Rand, claim reason and rational thought is the source of the moral life.  Shakespeare would say there is no right or wrong, only thinking makes it so.  So who has the correct moral code?  Again, it depends on who you ask.  While some moral codes have more compelling epistemological arguments than others, at the end of the day it comes down to this.  Good is what I like, and bad is what I do not like.  Morality is personal and subjective.

As the libertarian leaning video above demonstrates, the cornerstone of social morality might be considered to be based on voluntary exchanges and mutual consent.  Or as a third grade teacher might instruct a student, "If you say you are going to do something, you should keep your word, otherwise do not promise somebody you will do something."  The video above mentions that, "at times some people use force or fraud to take from others without voluntary consent."

Groups of individuals may also contract with an individual, as the video above demonstrates.  Groups of individuals who have various moral codes, can agree upon basic moral tenets or positions and translate that into law, or HOA guidelines, or club rules.  Religious bodies will work together for common social ends based on shared moral tenets.  When a group contracts with an individual to perform a service, it is generally understood that the individual should faithfully keep his end of the mutual agreement, and should not violate that agreement because he later decides he does not want to do business with individuals who wear tacky clothes, or who wear hats, or who give their children medicine.  In short, the individual has contracted to work for the group and if the group does not change its end of the bargain, the individual cannot morally change his or her end.

As military officers, we have made a contract with all tax paying Americans, to perform services in accordance with the house rules (our laws and our Constitution).  We are paid by the public to execute their decisions based upon a legal public morality, and not simply based on what we personally like, or do not like.  Failing to do so after receiving millions of tax payer money and training, is quite simply immoral.

The irony is that Captain Pavoni claims the moral mantle, but he does so from an immoral position which damages the group he has voluntarily contracted with.  By not making good on his oath to well and faithfully discharge the duties of his voluntarily contracted office, Captain Pavoni has demonstrated that he is unfit to ever again be in any public office, and those who would voluntarily contract with him in any mutual exchange would do well to understand the term caveat emptor.  Captain Pavoni has demonstrated that his word is not to be trusted.

His example should serve as a reminder to all military officers - words are important, but that does not take the place of well thought out and reasoned understanding of our professional requirements and duties.  And, of course, actions matter far more than words.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Four Horsemen - Flashy Herk Drivers

One of my favorite videos as a youngster.  Before the Thunderbirds, the very first Air Force aviation demonstration team was comprised of crews who flew the mighty C-130.  Great piece of history in this video, and I'm glad to see it has made its way to YouTube to be enjoyed by all.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Air Force Fighter Pilot and Wife Seek Discharge on Moral Grounds

According to the Ron Paul Channel, Air Force Captain Justin Pavoni, an F-15E pilot, and his wife (also an Air Force pilot), are seeking discharge from the Air Force on moral grounds.  Former congressman Ron Paul, who served in the Air Force himself after being drafted, interviewed Captain Pavoni.  Captain Pavoni has several combat deployments as a fighter pilot.

Before this story starts circulating the internet and incurring the wrath from the trenches, as any story of a military officer questioning authority invariably does, I'll offer my hasty initial thoughts on the interview and then provide my reasoning for disagreeing with Captain Pavoni's decision.

From what I gathered, Captain Pavoni's disillusionment appears to be based on government policy and use of the military since the attacks of September 11th.  I can certainly sympathize with his disillusionment over government policy over the last decade or so.  Captain Pavoni's concerns are shared by many in the service, and his interview reminds me of another Air Force officer who put on a mask and made this video.

In my view, Captain Pavoni does not appear to fit the conscientious objector status, at least from what little I know of it.  He mentions in the interview that he's not against defending against terrorist threats, but rather he thinks the policies enacted in the name of defending against terrorism have been an overreach.  He seems to indicate in the interview that a great deal of study and research over the years led to his conscientious objector position, but I would think that status would be a moral position that would have less to do with study and research.  When asked how he came to his current view, Captain Pavoni stated:
I would say it was more gradual, sir, you know it's sort of some things for me didn't add up in 2009, and I was a little bit more disillusioned maybe more on the policy level than on the necessarily the moral perspective, but as I went on and researched and compared my experience with, you know, my world view, it became incompatible for me on a moral level.
It seems to me that a conscientious objector is one who is morally against all forms of violence to include self defense, but of course I could be incorrect and ultimately some legal body will rule on his request.  At any rate, there is nothing wrong with him requesting discharge on these grounds or any other grounds.

It becomes problematic, however, when a request instead becomes breaking a contract.  When asked if he could be stationed overseas while his discharge request is considered, Captain Pavoni stated that he has made his decision, and that he will not be involved in combat operations.  He mentioned that what the government chooses to do in response was out of his hands.

I disagree with Captain Pavoni's refusal to serve as he has been trained to do, although I do appreciate his courage and personal conviction.  The reason I disagree is because the role of a military officer is not to follow their own personal morality, but rather to comport themselves in accordance with the collective American morality that is translated into our law.  Public service is not personal service.  Our Constitution and other law sets the limits of what we can and must do, and what we must refrain from doing, in accordance with the "moral" view of the American people distilled into law.  Captain Pavoni has received multiple millions of dollars in training from the American people to do a job - a job he voluntarily chose to do, raised his hand and swore to do, was trained to do at great public expense, and has now refused to do in violation of the terms of his contract.

Beyond that, I think Captain Pavoni's stance is not so much a moral stance, but rather is more a simple disagreement with policy.  Nowhere in the interview did he express a moral truth or moral code, but he did talk at length about disagreeing with policy.  It is not the role of a military member to only execute policy they happen to agree with.

Captain Pavoni appears to be of the view that all American war is "cut from the same cloth," and that a person cannot pick and choose which actions they will participate in.  This view is completely wrong.  College educated military officers are expected to do precisely that - to determine what actions are legal and in accordance with our Constitution, and to refuse those which are not.  In my career I have done precisely that--refusing an unlawful order to perform an illegal action, offering my resignation after being reprimanded, and nearly facing an administrative separation board or court martial.  Yet, in my case, the Air Force ultimately did the right thing by not wrongly kicking me out and I remained a faithful public servant and continue to serve my nation to this day.  Still, had the Air Force accepted my resignation or had it kicked me out, I still would have left with a legacy of faithfully serving my nation--I just would have paid a greater personal price for being a faithful public servant.  But it's not about us when we raise our right hands.  That's the essence of public service.

So, in my view, while Captain Pavoni can and should object to participating in unlawful operations (for example in Libya after day sixty without congressional approval), and while he could and should refuse illegal orders and actions within the broader umbrella of legal wars (such as assassinating an American citizen who presented no imminent threat and was denied due process of law), Captain Pavoni cannot morally join the martial profession and then refuse to provide combat capability with a blanket statement refusal.  He took an oath and he is now not making good on that oath.

I do think Capt Pavoni has a valuable perspective on military policy, and I agree with his view that our actions have unintended consequences and that we are likely creating more terrorists than we are vanquishing with our actions.  He has a valuable viewpoint and I agree with it, but it is not the proper role of a military officer to refuse to do as instructed by civilians who have a different viewpoint.

While I fully support any officer refusing to break the law (something they are required to do, but sadly not something we can expect government servants to do these days), I cannot support a public servant who wastes tax payer money and refuses to make good on the contract they voluntarily placed themselves in.  In the military we are the stick, and not the hand that wields it.  This means we may be placed in the position of doing things we find personally immoral, but so long as what we are tasked to do is legal, then we must make good on what we promised the American people--even when we personally disagree with the American people.  It's an uncomfortable position, especially given the wayward policies of government over the last decade plus, but it is a position that is simply one of the many burdens of being a professional military officer controlled by an elected civilian leadership.

To sum up my thoughts, Captain Pavoni's position appears to me based far too much on his personal policy views, something that is not within his lane as a professional military officer, rather than being based on the rule of law and the Constitution, which is precisely within his lane as a military officer.  I do appreciate his courage though.  But I disagree with his decision to refuse to carry out his voluntarily accepted contract.  I can also agree with him that it is in the best interest of the American people for him to be discharged, now that he has violated his oath of office.  Our oath of office isn't just something that requires us to occasionally and courageously say no.  More often than not, our oath requires us to salute smartly and execute even when we disagree.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ben Swann Appreciates Veterans who Defend the Constitution

In the video above, Ben Swann expresses his appreciation for the Veterans Against Police Abuse (VAPA), a group of people dedicated to fusing technology and legal action to help Americans protect themselves and their constitutional rights.

Swann's sentiments are well timed, as we all take a couple of days to remember the sacrifices of those before us, who gave everything to support and defend our Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic.  I hope that this Veterans Day, we can think about why that really matters and ask ourselves what is really so important that we send our sons and daughters to bleed and die on foreign grounds.  What is at the heart of this commitment and why does it truly matter?

The answer is America.  America is worth defending, and as Edward Snowden stated, America is worth dying for.  America isn't just lines on a map, or an affiliation by birth like cheering for the local football team.  America is principle and reason and character and values and was truly the greatest nation ever created.  Those values and principles, which seem so distant these days as they are frequently demonized in the present, make America worth fighting and dying to protect.

To truly defend something, one must truly value something.

I'd like to echo Swann's appreciation this Veteran's Day weekend, and give thanks to those who have raised their right hands and who know and who value and who truly defend our Constitution-- who often defend it from those who also raised their right hands and yet do not truly know or value that same document.

If America is ever to be restored to its greatness, it will take all of our peaceful and collaborative and courageous actions with a healthy dose of American ingenuity.  There is no better time to be a great American than right now, to be a great American like Ben Swann, the best news journalist in the nation, who offers his skills to benefit truth and liberty, rather than to merely collect a paycheck.  Being a great American who defends his nation requires no military experience at all.

Happy Veterans Day weekend.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Enemy of the State - A Movie That Became Reality

I remember watching this movie when it first came out.  Very entertaining and it raised important points.  I then remember watching this movie become a reality.  America is seeing it more clearly now than ever.  I remember the Patriot Act being discussed in this movie's fake media, as it was later discussed in real fake media.

The movie is worth a watch and it's entertaining as only Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Jack Black, Seth Green, and Jason Lee (of Kevin Smith Clerks/Chasing Amy fame) can deliver.

The movie is only entertaining because it is perhaps the ultimate example of Deus Ex Machina.  The reality is God will not save us.

The NSA's Continual Violation of our Constitution

There is an exceptionally well done interactive website that discusses the systemic, egregious, and completely inexcusable violation of the rights of Americans by the National Security Agency (NSA).  The website linked above brings in great legal minds and a couple of members of Congress to provide a rich look at the agency's routine violation of our Fourth Amendment to our Constitution.  Scroll down that site to have the issue explained in great detail.

I recommend every single military person visit this page and review the content in its entirety.  This is information you need to know if you are to be well prepared to honor your oath; your solemn promise to the nation, and the taxpayers who pay you to not infringe on their rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Nobody said it would be easy.  Do the right thing, not the easy thing.  There is no choice but to risk yourself to do the right thing while you serve.  If that's too much for you, get out of the military now.  Don't walk, run.  For those who remain, you may get one chance to do the right thing while you're in - and if you fail during that opportunity, then you're a failure.  No stratification, no wing award, and no rank or position will ever be able to change that fact.  If you get tested, you must be ready.  Against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  Don't be on the wrong side of that line.

If you need a tip on what it means to truly serve, consider the example of former Navy SEAL Mike Janke.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Trickle Approved for TERA

According to Stars & Stripes, the recent and very limited Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA) offer led to more than 350 airmen retiring early.  They must be retired one month from today.

According to the article, the 311 enlisted and 47 officers who were approved for the program, broke down as such:
The military rank of the majority of applicants approved — 201 — were technical sergeants, according to Dickerson. There were also 110 master sergeants, 31 majors, eight captains and eight lieutenant colonels.

Seventy-nine of the approved applicants had 15 years’ active-duty service; 66 had served 16 years, 81 were at 17 years, 95 completed 18 years, and 37 had 19 years in the books.
Those are some pretty interesting statistics, particularly the number of folks with 18 and 19 years who took the retirement penalty to retire just a little early.

The article also states that the Air Force expects to announce involuntary separation programs soon.  As a person who applied for the TERA program and was told I was not eligible, I'm particularly interested to see what happens next.

I predict those who were not eligible for this voluntary separation program, will find themselves more than eligible for coming involuntary separation programs in FY 2014.

Interesting times we live in.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Power of Water

“Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.” - Ovid

Water is really under appreciated.  Not simply because all life requires water, but because water is one of the most powerful symbols to ever exist and yet it rarely gets any credit.  Perhaps that's actually part of its power.

Water can easily navigate around obstacles, over, under, around or through them.  Little to nothing is impervious to water.

If water wants in, it will get in, despite your best attempts to keep it out.  It will change forms from gas to ice and play the slow game if it must, but you can count on it showing up time after time.  It will be patient and it will slowly carve large unmovable rocks, and cut them down to size if that's what it desires.  Just as it did in that big canyon in Arizona.  Just as it has done throughout the world taking on the form of a glacier.

As Ovid said, "Guttaa cavat Lapidem" - dripping water carves a stone.  Water is very persistent.

A puddle of water, splish splash.  A hail storm.  An iceberg.  A cloud.  Water is a shape shifter.  Add a few basic elements to it, and it will change color and take on new properties.  Water is the ultimate chameleon.

But most importantly, water cleanses.  It washes away stains.

One way or another.

There is a lot we can learn from water.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Brilliant Leadership From General Welsh

It's not often I get to sing the praises of a senior leader in our service, but I really enjoy the rare opportunities I have to do so.  I was given a great opportunity a couple of weeks ago, thanks to the current Air Force Chief of Staff.  General Welsh, in perhaps the perfect textbook act of leadership, empowered all airmen in our service to do what makes sense for mission and people, even if that means not following a regulation.

The Air Force Times did a good job seizing on the most important aspect of the General's speech, quoting the CSAF stating, "We’ve got a lot of frustrated people out at the front end of the Air Force who don’t understand why they are given guidance to do things that don’t make any sense to them."  The guidance General Welsh gave:

If it doesn’t make common sense, if it doesn’t make the mission better, if it doesn’t take better care of our people, then just don’t do it and tell your boss...

That may sound revolutionary or perhaps even naive to some.  But it most certainly is not.  It is brilliant and it is combat tested.  Robin Olds comes to mind.  But there are also modern examples.  In my years flying the AC-130 Gunship for Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), each time we got a new squadron commander, unfailingly we were told at the very first commander's call that if we knew the regulations and broke them to get the mission accomplished, our commander would have our back.  Each commander followed that up with a reminder that if we broke regulations because we did not know them, they would fry us.  This was not an invitation to suck, to be lazy, or to not care.  I want to emphasize that every single squadron commander gave that disclaimer up front (four commanders in my time spent in the community).  They told us this, because it was important and they knew we were dedicated and mature enough to think and to get the mission done successfully.  And we did.  And we were truly exceptional doing it.

General Welsh has empowered us the same way.  For those who think it was just a speech, the Air Force Times article tells us General Welsh claims he is "dead serious."  In the video link above, you can witness the Chief saying it.  Beyond that, I have heard other senior leaders echo this sentiment, pointing to these specific words from the CSAF, to those who complain about the myriad of serious problems we suffer in our air service.  In the video above, the CSAF says that the MAJCOM commanders understand his guidance.  In the political reality in which we live, where so many military officers psychologically trade in their uniforms for the clothes and fake smiles of politicians, I understand mistrust of those who climb the ladder.  I certainly reserved a bit of mistrust for General Welsh when he took command.

But listening to him talk about his father, and his father's amazing acts of service, in addition to the obvious qualities General Welsh brings to the table, was enough to earn my trust.  You simply don't have a father like Colonel Welsh and not care.  It's not possible.  You don't become CSAF without being intelligent and competent.  Caring, intelligence, and competence is a superb combination.

The BLIM is this--if you are acting in the best interest of the service and the nation, regardless of the friction that might cause, your service will not be lost while General Welsh is at the helm.

I would, however, advise all to remember the words of my ghostly commanders from the past.  Know the regs, know the mission, and be doing the right thing for the mission.  Maturity.  Authority brings responsibility.  Study before treading lightly.

The gauntlet has been thrown down, and it's not just words from a speech writer.  The boss has gotten the message out, and it's trickling down.  There should be no misunderstandings, and there are no longer any excuses for not getting it done.  There is, however, a responsibility to mentor our peers and subordinates on the maturity required to handle this increased authority that each of us has been given to take care of mission and people.

General Welsh threw the gauntlet down.  While he fights for resources in a tough environment, he has given us the green light to do what makes sense for the nation.  It's time for us to pick the gauntlet up, and take care of business for the American people.  General Welsh has our back.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

New Forum for Real Military Aviation Communication

More than a decade ago I created a military aviation website with an emphasis on resources for cadets wishing to be commissioned officers, and aviators.  My intent was to develop it cradle to grave, focusing on the youngsters, and I invested a great deal of money into the venture.  Not only does WantsCheck.Com ("wants check" is a military pilot mnemonic) have content, but it has great tools designed to allow the community to improve the website.  Fortunately, I designed it in such a way that those who wish to give to the community can do so directly whether it be by sharing their personal information that led them to gaining a coveted slot for military pilot training, or by sharing gouge on an interview with a particular guard unit.  This paid off.

A string of legal issues took all my time from developing the website, and I have barely visited the website over the last five years.  Still, the website continued to grow amassing nearly 17,000 registered users and a database of more than 600 individuals who shared their competitive information before attending pilot training.

I will now be using the website for an experiment on communication.  I and several others will be launching a message board, with carefully discussed rules for moderation to prevent censoring good ideas.  Many of the problems with communication found in our service, it seems to me, are mirrored on military websites.  Our attempt will be to create a forum where opinions and ideas can die or prosper on their own merit, without the insecurity of moderators or irrational worship of sacred cows trumping discussion.  In order to better study this communication, I have to refrain from joining it, and will simply study from the shadows our new creation.  For my part, the forum is not a means to empower a particular message (to include my own), but to empower real communication.

I hope to have the forum populated by a diverse group of individuals with differing opinions, free from censorship, in the hope that unfettered communication will lead to greater knowledge among those who participate.  And hopefully, to a better informed group of individuals serving in our military.

Wish us luck as we endeavor to Keep Em' Flying!

Monday, September 2, 2013

President Obama Made the Right Call on Syria

One of the tougher aspects of military service is that service means being the stick, and not the hand that wields it.  We don't have to agree with the wisdom or outright foolishness of any proposed military action in order to pack our bags and carry it out.  We simply have to be sure that our actions are legal and comport with the laws of our nation.

When it comes to law, our President was correct during his speech.  He was correct that he does have the ability to take military action without congressional approval.  While it is true that our Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war, it is also true that the same section of enumerated powers to Congress also gives that branch the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution every single power granted to any portion of our federal government.  Congress exercised that power by passing federal law, known as the War Powers Resolution, which allows the President to take military action for sixty days without their authorization or approval, and imminent threat to the United States is not required.  President Obama was correct.

I believe it was a wise move for President Obama, notwithstanding his legal authority to take military action, to choose not to do so in order to let this matter be debated in Congress where it belongs.  Fortunately, our military leadership has been providing responsible advice to civilian leadership.  We can only hope that Congress gets it right this time, and does not error inexcusably as they did with their authorization for war in Iraq.  I also believe that every instance of government being restrained by our rule of law, should be applauded.

Again, we're the stick.  If Congress authorizes the war, be ready to pack your bags and go to work.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Our Constitution is on the Terror List

Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request, and received some documents where our Air Force teaches airmen that multiple Presidents of the United States, among others, were extremists unfit to serve in the U.S. military.  The training material states that:
As noted, an ideology is a set of political beliefs about the nature of people and society. People who are committed to an ideology seek not only to persuade but to recruit others to their belief. In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples.
According to the Air Force training materials, individuals such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Adams, and John Hancock were extremists who would not be fit to serve in our military today, opining that, "Individuals who hold extremist views are in conflict with the standards expected of all military members, and participation in extremism is inconsistent with the duties of military service."  The training material further states:
Furthering the objectives of extremist organizations is viewed as detrimental to the good order, discipline, or mission accomplishment of the unit and is, therefore, subject to appropriate disciplinary action. As an EOA, you should assist the unit commanders in being vigilant about the existence of such activities.
I would love to see the look on General George Washington's face after reading this military guidance, "Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place."  Not only did Washington hold such "extremist" ideology, but he also organized men in pursuit of its goals to secure a greater measure of liberty.  The founding generation, extremists, successfully threw off tyranny in colonial America, and they also founded our current government through our Constitution and put in process a system that replaced the authoritarian divine right of Kings and which has, when followed, made our country better as suffrage was expanded and slavery eliminated.  If this Air Force training material is to be believed, what we are teaching our airmen is that the proper course of action in the face of tyranny and government abuse, is to simply shut up and accept an authoritarian government and to be wary of discussing "rights" and making the world a better place.  Sounds familiar.  Given that much of the training material is taken from the once-great Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), it's understandable why this training is so misguided.
But the problem really is much larger than these documents, and those who composed them.  There truly is an all out assault on our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, and our American ideals and that assault is widespread throughout our military.  Our Constitution and our Declaration of Independence have both been paid lip service to, while those who truly value those documents are painted as domestic terrorists or as some kind of threat.  I have experienced it first hand.  Once when I was ordered by an AETC squadron commander to not discuss the Constitution with my students, and years later when I was ordered to violate our Constitution in the most egregious way possible, with extreme prejudice.

I requested the first order in writing, but the commander declined to provide it, so I continued to instruct my students on the officership that was expected of them to include their oaths to support and defend the Constitution without mental reservation or purpose of evasion.

The second, and much more troubling order, was provided in writing, after I refused the verbal order with a witness present.  I refused that order in writing.  My own FOIA results show that I was to be sent to either a court martial or more likely an administrative separation board and booted from the service with more than fifteen years of service (an admin separation board is a non-legal proceeding where the order would be assumed to be lawful).  For some reason leadership changed its mind on this course of action.  I figured they wouldn't court martial me and actually introduce the issue into a real legal proceeding, where they would most certainly lose, as the order would be declared illegal and unconstitutional and would provide some difficulties in the halls of power.  I'm still not sure why they changed their mind on the administrative separation board.  At any rate, they decided to give me yet another written reprimand, my first ever referral performance report, and they suspended all my security clearances on grounds that I was not "loyal."  Never in my life would I have guessed that my loyalty would ever be questioned, but it was.  I resigned my commission over the affair, but it was not accepted.  It took more than a year of being in non-operational limbo not knowing my fate, but the Air Force ultimately did the right thing, found for me, acknowledged that I was defending our Constitution and that I had submitted my signed resignation to leadership in response to the reprimand.  The Air Force reinstated my security clearances and put me back into the operational fight where I continue to use my experience to defend our nation, and our Constitution, as I swore to do; an oath I keep without letting cowardly concern for myself or my career get in the way of my duty to those who pay me to protect them.  In my case, the Air Force did the right thing.  But that matters little.  I was the only person to refuse the unlawful order, and ultimately our Constitution was violated; a violation that in my view has marked the lowest point in American history, or has ended it all together.

Something has definitely changed in a very serious way, in our service and in our country.  These Air Force training documents actually give us great insight into what has changed.  The document states:
All nations have an ideology, something in which they believe. When a political ideology falls outside the norms of a society, it is known as extremism.
This is correct.  When the American ideology that government be limited and checked and restrained, and that American citizens have rights in the face of powerful government, and that government is to be for the People rather than for ruling over the People, gets marginalized and is no longer valued, then American values become seen as extremist.  Not because they are actually extreme or dangerous, but simply because they are different and minority.  Ironically, our Constitution was created to protect the minorities and their rights to believe and speak unpopular minority views, and yet today we see the SPLC and others demonizing minority viewpoints using nonsense labels like "extremist" to describe a politically unpopular, though historically justified, point of view.

Demonizing the very foundation of America as "extremist" and incompatible with military service is no small thing.

But it's not just government and private organizations that wish to operate without legal restraint that demonize America.  The Constitution is degraded and marginalized throughout the ranks of both the military and larger society, and in conversation on a day to day basis.  Meat-head military officers who think ESPN is a news source routinely disparage the document, silence any discussion of it, and irresponsibly demonize the minority of their peers who actually make good on their oaths to support and defend the Constitution by publicly expressing their value for it.  Even the highly educated and intelligent (like Tony Carr, who deleted his own blog post and its comments about his view that no rights in the Constitution are inviolate) find ways to verbally pay homage to the document, while approaching it with the caveat that it can be violated at the whim of the government or "interpreted" like play-doh for any end, making it wholly meaningless.  A great many who serve are almost eager to violate the constitutional rights of their American neighbors and express it on an online poll, while being paid by those very same neighbors to protect their constitutional rights.  We are in a very bad place.

For those of us who serve, who truly serve, we need to feel the pressure of our oaths to America.  While most of us will not be placed in a position where we are ordered to violate our supreme law and the rights of our neighbors who pay us (I fear that will change, and is changing), the rest of us can fulfill our duty to support and defend the Constitution by taking the minimal time required to read it, studying what the document says rather than what we want it to say or what we are told it says, and by mentoring our peers to do the same.  And we have to draw a line in the sand, set a moral go speed, and commit to never violating our highest law no matter the cost to ourselves personally.  At the end of the day, this isn't an intellectual exercise - it's a character exercise, and those who don't have the stones to truly defend Americans and make good on their oaths, should find some corporate company to ruin.  Once we separate or retire from the military, then and only then, can we factor ourselves and our convenience into the equation.  Until then, cowards need not apply and your justifications fall flat despite your attempts to silence those who show you a mirror.  Public service ain't no chump game.  Even when it's filled with chumps.

You can call it "extremist" to do the right thing by your nation as you swore before God to do, even at your own personal career expense, if it helps you rationalize your lack of integrity or your lack of spine.  But as for me, I'll stand with General George Washington on this one.