Rumsfeld, Myers Express Support for CENTCOM Commander Franks
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2003 America's top defense leaders expressed strong support today for Army Gen. Tommy Franks, the U.S. Central Command commander who is the subject of a defense inspector general investigation over alleged irregularities.
"Tom Franks is doing a superb job for this country, and we are lucky to have him there," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a Pentagon briefing. "He is a man of great talent and skill, and he has my complete confidence and the complete confidence of the president of the United States."
As commander of CENTCOM, Franks is the general responsible for prosecuting the war on terror in a broad geographic area, including Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf. He would also likely lead any military operation in Iraq.
An article in today's Washington Post reveals Franks is the subject of an IG investigation over privileges allegedly afforded his wife, Cathy. According to the article, the IG is looking into allegations that Franks allowed his wife into highly classified briefings and didn't properly reimburse the government for her travel on official aircraft.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers backed up his boss's statement of support for Franks. "Americans ought to be very proud they have somebody like Tom Franks putting his mind and leading his people to plan for potential conflict in his area of responsibility. They could not be better served," Myers said. "And there's nobody that would not want their son or daughter to serve under a plan that he's put together or under his command, in my opinion."
Rumsfeld dismissed concerns that his statements of support could lead to undue command influence on investigators or a conflict of interest on his part. Franks reports directly to Rumsfeld, so Rumsfeld would have to mete out any eventual punishment should the investigation find any wrongdoing.
The secretary said he has not seen an IG report and that his comments have no bearing on the investigation. He noted that the investigation came to the media's attention through an unauthorized leak, and he said he felt the attention was unfair to Franks.
"It struck me that to counterbalance that unfairness to him I would say what I thought about him as a combatant commander," Rumsfeld said. "I think I did exactly the right thing, and unless someone tells me it's the wrong thing to do, I will probably keep right on doing it."
Defense officials pointed out that IG investigations are not uncommon, and often don't find any wrongdoing. Rumsfeld noted that any time an individual makes an allegation, an investigation is called for. He also declined to comment on the specific allegations against Franks because the investigation is ongoing.
"Investigations take awhile," he said. "And I suppose it's because good people try to do them right and try to be careful."