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DoD NewsBriefing: Major General Nolan Sklute, AF/ SJA

Presenters: Major General Nolan Sklute, AF/ SJA
August 17, 1995 1:30 PM EDT

Tuesday, August 15, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.

(Note: Participating in this briefing were Maj. Gen. Sklute and Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD/PA)

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Thank you for coming to our briefing today. It'snice to see so many happy faces here on such a hot day.

The briefing will be in two parts today. First, Major General Nolan Sklute,Staff Judge Advocate of the Air Force, will talk to you about the recentadministrative actions taken by General Fogleman, Air Force Chief of Staff, inconnection with the April 14, 1994, shootdown of two U.S. Army Blackhawkhelicopters.

Before General Sklute takes over, I'd just like to read a brief statement fromSecretary Perry which will be available to you afterwards.

"On the day of the Blackhawk shootdown, I pledged to conduct a thoroughinquiry of the circumstances behind the tragedy, to take necessary correctiveaction, and to hold people accountable. Disciplinary actions were broughtunder the Uniform Code of Military Justice. During these proceedings it wasinappropriate for me and other commanders to comment. After the militaryjustice process had run its course, I asked Deputy Secretary John White toreview the adequacy of actions taken to hold people accountable and to correctthe problems that led to this accident. Dr. White asked the Chairman of theJoint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretaries of the Air Force and the Army toassess the consistency and appropriateness of actions after the accident. TheAir Force steps to improve accountability are the first response to thisdirective. Dr. White and I will review all of the reports and decide ifadditional measures are necessary."

As I said, that statement is available afterwards.

General Sklute?

General Sklute: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. What I plan to do isdiscuss the Air Force Chief of Staff's review -- General Fogleman's review --of the entire Blackhawk incident and the actions he took or recommended betaken to Secretary Widnall.

The combination of actions taken that were previously taken by commanders, andGeneral Fogleman's personal actions which were taken with the authority of theSecretary of the Air Force, assure that those Air Force personnel involved inthe tragedy of 14 April 1994 have been held accountable.

What I'd like to do first is to recap the actions that were taken followingthe incident. First and foremost -- and I think you're all aware of this --changes were made to a variety of systems, organizational structures, anddirectives in order to minimize the chances that the tragedy of 14 April '94could not be repeated -- in order to minimize the chance that the incidentcould be repeated, I should say.

A list of those actions which were recently reviewed and shown to be workingwill be available to you at the conclusion of this conference.

Second, military justice actions were taken under the Uniform Code of MilitaryJustice and these actions have now been completed. Cases involving sixofficers, one F-15 pilot, and five AWACS crew members were investigated byindependent military judges under Article 32 of the Uniform Code of MilitaryJustice. This is analogous to a grand jury proceeding in the civilian side.

Consistent with the recommendations of the military judges, charges againstfive of the officers were dismissed and Captain Wang's case was referred totrial by general court martial.

Third, eight officers received letters of reprimand, admonishment, orcounseling. As to three senior officers, these letters are in the process ofbeing entered into what we call Senior Officer Unfavorable Information Files.These files are presented to general officer promotion boards. Letters on theothers were entered into Unfavorable Information Files; however, these do notgo to promotion boards.

One officer received non-judicial punishment under Article 15 of the UCMJ, andthat action was entered into both an Unfavorable Information File, and anOfficer Selection Record.

Additionally, the continued aviation service of the two F-15 pilots wasconsidered by flying evaluation boards. The final actions taken by the majorair command commander resulted in Lieutenant Colonel May being assigned tostaff duties; and Captain Wickson being assigned to instructor pilot duties innon-combat aircraft.

I should also point out that a lieutenant colonel -- AWACS squadron commander-- retired in his current grade even though he had been selected for promotionto colonel.

Following the conclusion of the court martial of Captain Wang, Dr. Widnall,General Fogleman, and senior leaders within the Department of Defense were freeto review all of the actions taken in this matter without raising the specterof command influence. Until then, they were precluded from public comment by acourt order issued in January of '95 by the judge in the Wang case. The orderwas designed to ensure the fairness of the military justice process.

Within a week following the Wang trial, General Fogleman had identifiedinconsistencies between the adverse administrative action and some performanceevaluations on the officers concerned. This led to his issuing a message onJuly 11th to commanders of major commands. In it, he expressed his concernwith these apparent disconnects between performance evaluations and the adverseadministrative actions. In that message -- a copy of which is available to you-- he stated, "We cannot tolerate actions which appear to condemn inappropriateconduct one moment, condone it the next, or even worse, reward it."

On July 24th, the Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the Army, the Air Forceand the Joint Staff to review the actions taken as a result of the Blackhawkshootdown. The Secretary of the Air Force designated the Air Force Chief ofStaff, General Fogleman, to perform the Air Force review. That review is nowcompleted, and his report -- General Fogleman's report -- has been presented toDr. Widnall. The Air Force news release, which includes Dr. Widnall's reportto the Deputy Secretary of Defense, has, I believe, been distributed to you orwill be made available to you.

Let me just summarize the substance of General Fogleman's review, and thenI'll be happy to field your questions.

General Fogleman's review focused on Air Force standards and accountability.He reviewed the actions of each individual to see if Air Force standards were,in fact, met. He then assessed the records to see if those who failed to meetAir Force standards had been held appropriately accountable. The results ofhis review fall into three broad categories. First, the military justiceactions, then the administrative actions, then the personnel actions.

In summary, General Fogleman found that the military justice process hadworked as it was designed to work. He found that the appropriate balance wasexisting between command involvement and individual rights. Both he and Dr.Widnall found that no further military justice action was appropriate, andrecommend no changes to the military justice process. They expressed theircomplete faith in the military justice system, and nothing in the review hasaltered that.

In the second area of review, General Fogleman found that the administrativeactions which were taken by commanders fell within the appropriate range ofavailable options. He therefore took no further action and recommended nofurther action of an administrative or disciplinary nature.

In the area of personnel actions, General Fogleman concluded that the failuresof certain officers to meet Air Force standards were not appropriatelyreflected in their performance evaluations. General Fogleman has therefore,personally issued letters of evaluation to seven officers describing theirfailure to meet such standards in connection with the Blackhawk incident.These letters have been provided to each officer, and each has an opportunityto respond. The evaluation and the response will become a permanent part ofeach individual's record.

General Fogleman also concluded that because their performance did not meetAir Force standards, the F-15 pilots and the AWACS crew members most directlyinvolved should be disqualified from further duties involving flying andcontrol of aircraft and air operations for at least three years. Thoseindividuals have been notified of their disqualification.

I should also mention that the Joint Meritorious Service Medal awarded to oneofficer -- a colonel -- for his service in Operation PROVIDE COMFORT has beenrevoked by the joint command which issued it.

Finally, General Fogleman concluded that accountability does not end withthose involved in the Blackhawk incident. He also addressed the fact thatseveral senior officers did not appropriately reflect in performanceevaluations the conduct of those involved.

Air Force directives afford rating officials great discretion in preparingperformance evaluations. However, General Fogleman found that failing toappropriately describe in ratings or comments -- conduct which contributed toan accident of this magnitude -- is not acceptable. He personally expressed toeach of the senior officers his deep concern and dissatisfaction.

In order to ensure that the entire Air Force understands the need to takeeffective steps to document failures to meet high Air Force standards, GeneralFogleman issued a videotape for mandatory viewing by all officers, the topthree enlisted grades, and members of the senior executive service within theAir Force. The videotape describes General Fogleman's views on Air Forcestandards and accountability, and that video will be available for your viewingat the conclusion of this session. You may ask, "Can we have a copy of thatvideo?" That video is being reproduced in many copies. It's intended for usewithin the Air Force institution, and we want to afford our Air Force membersan opportunity to view that video before it's distributed outside the AirForce.

Followup review are also underway as a result of General Fogleman's review.The first is aimed at ensuring that Air Force policies and procedures fordocumenting adverse actions are adequate. The process of our sister servicesare being considered as part of this review.

We're also reviewing flying evaluation board policies and procedures to ensurethat they are adequate for actions involving possible deficiencies in judgment.The review by both General Fogleman and Secretary Widnall focused on issues ofstandards and accountability. These are themes which the two of them have beenaddressing on a continuous basis over the past year. They are convinced thatthe vast majority of Air Force personnel do, in fact, have high standards andabide by them. However, they seek to ensure that Air Force standards areuniformly known, consistently applied, and non-selectively enforced.

I should add that none of the actions I have addressed -- the disciplinaryactions, administrative actions, and personnel actions -- can begin tocompensate for the human cost of the Blackhawk tragedy. However,accountability is absolutely essential in this and in all incidents.

We can now say that those Air Force personnel involved in this incident --officers who do not meet Air Force standards -- have, in fact, been heldaccountable.

I'll be glad to take your questions.

Q: General, this question really goes to all seven, but particularly CaptainWang. Is it not tantamount to double jeopardy? A general court martial foundhim innocent, or exonerated him; and now, whatever you call the action byGeneral Fogleman, we both knew it is punitive because for all intents andpurposes, the careers of these seven officers are over.

A: When you talk about criminal actions and you talk about personnel actions,we're really mixing apples and oranges.

Criminal laws set a certain floor for behavior. Air Force standards also seta floor for behavior, but Air Force standards are much higher than the level ofcriminal laws. The actions taken by General Fogleman in regard to performanceevaluations are a reflection that Air Force standards were not met by CaptainWang. He describes in that evaluation Captain Wang's involvement in theincident of 14 April. So really, the two are not equated -- personnel actionsand criminal actions.

Q: I think this has yet to be proven. If I were Wang's defense counsel I'd bedoing my homework at the moment. But anyway, regarding this wholeinvestigation and what you've announced today, it strikes me and others thatthis whole investigation has been very sloppily handled, and now what thegeneral is saying in effect is, I disagree with everything that's taken place,I'm going to hand out my own edict.

A: Let me try to put that in perspective, if I may. Immediately following theBlackhawk tragedy, a very, very extensive investigation was conducted. Theinvestigation focused on safety concerns as well as accountability concerns.The military justice process ran its course. Six officers were referred toArticle 32 investigations -- the equivalent of a Grand Jury. All but CaptainWang had charges dismissed based upon recommendations of military judges --based upon the evidence presented in each case. Captain Wang was tried and hewas found not guilty by a court martial.

The administrative actions that were taken include, as I recall, five lettersof reprimand, two admonitions, and a letter of counseling.

General Fogleman concluded, one, that the military justice process worked asit was designed to work. Commanders did the right thing. They were not swayedby outside influences. They exercised their independent judgment. He foundthat the administrative actions that were administered by commanders fellwithin an appropriate range of options available to commanders, and determinedthat additional administrative actions were unnecessary on his part.

What he did find is that there were disconnects in certain instances betweenperformance evaluations and the administrative actions that were taken. Hefound that, in certain instances, an officer's failure to meet Air Forcestandards was not appropriately reflected in their performance evaluation.

So in answer to your question, the actions that were taken by commanders werefound to be appropriate in both the administrative and the military justicearea. The one area that General Fogleman had a concern with was the personnelactions, the performance evaluations. He also took additional actionsconcerning the disqualification of air crew members.

Q: Who else in the chain of command was held accountable besides the sevenofficers involved today? I don't understand.

A: We start with the commander of the Combined Task force Operation PROVIDECOMFORT. We also include the air component commander, the CFAC -- the CombinedForces Air Component Commander. We also have the director of operations withinthe air component. We also have the two F-15 pilots. We also have AWACS crewmembers.

Q: Aside from those seven, I'm saying who was held accountable in the chain ofcommand? For instance, you say the performance evaluations were not adequateenough. Are the officers who made those performance evaluations being heldaccountable in any way? Any actions being taken against them?

A: Again, let me try to put that in the proper context. We're talking aboutperformance evaluations that were rendered by senior officers. We're nottalking about individuals who were involved in the incident itself, one.

Two, General Fogleman found that officers who are rating officials have widediscretion under Air Force directives in preparing performance evaluations. Heconcluded that in this incident, not reflecting the officer's failure to meetAir Force standards on the 14th of April, was not acceptable, and he expressedhis concern to those senior officers who acted in the rating chain.

Q: But no disciplinary action was taken against those officers?

A: No, sir.

Q: How does this affect the careers of these officers? Does it effectivelyend them? How do you want this to serve as an example to others in the AirForce?

A: I'll let you be the judge of whether or not having a performance evaluationreflecting one's failure to meet Air Force standards included in an officialrecord that goes to promotion boards, how that would impact one's career. Theimpact of that is obviously significant.

Q: How do you want this to be an example?

A: General Fogleman's video -- when you see his video, and eventually you'llbe provided a copy of his video at the appropriate time -- expresses the answerto your question much better than I can. I'm going to let you view his videoat the conclusion of this conference, and I think you'll have an answer to yourquestion.

Q: General, do you think this will prevent similar incidents to this fromhappening in the future?

A: Will this prevent future fratricide incidents? The services do everythingthey can to preclude fratricide incidents from happening. Fratricide incidentshave happened from time immemorial. While we have taken actions that willsignificantly minimize the chance that an incident such as this can occur, noone can say with any degree of absoluteness that we will never have anotherfratricide incident.

Q: How does this lead to that? How does this make somebody who's an

F-15 pilot not shoot down a U.S. helicopter when he flies by real fast in whatseems to be a tense situation? Help me make the connection.

A: How will -- What's been done minimize... I'm speaking primarily of theoperational corrective actions that were taken, the systems actions that weretaken, the changes to directives and so on and so forth, and there are a numberof changes that have occurred in that regard. There's a list of those changesin a document sitting on the table in the back that you can read. I think youdraw the conclusion from reading that that those changes will, in fact,minimize the opportunity for this type of an incident to occur here.

Q: You said the commanders were not swayed by outside influence.

A: Correct.

Q: To what extent is this final review driven by the outrage that the initialfinding provoked?

A: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the end of it.

Q: To what extent was this final review driven by the outrage that the initialaction provoked?

A: That the initial action...

Q: Military action. The fact that no one was held accountable.

A: As I pointed out, General Fogleman as early as the 28th of June... If mymEmery serves me directly, Captain Wang was acquitted on the 20th of June.Until then, senior leaders were really precluded from doing a complete, openreview of all the actions that had taken place, and assess their nature, and tolook at accountability in general concerning the incident.

Upon the court martial of Captain Wang being concluded, General Fogleman, aweek later, on the 28th of June, found the inconsistencies in performanceevaluations versus adverse administrative actions.

On the 24th of July, Dr. White issued his memo. And on the following day, theSecretary of the Air Force issued her memo to General Fogleman directing thisreview be conducted. The review was really started before those memoranda cameout. Now those memoranda provided General Fogleman the authority to take theadditional actions which he's taken.

Q: To what extent was his action driven by the outrage?

A: By the outrage? General Fogleman's actions were not driven by outrage ofanyone. His actions were driven by his concern that Air Force standards beappropriately reflected in performance evaluations, or one's failure to meetstandards be appropriately reflected.

Q: How can you say the system worked as it was designed to work if you didn'treach the outcome that was desired? Obviously, if General Fogleman had to comein and impose sanctions after the process had finished up, then the process didnot do what the Air Force, in the end, hoped it would do.

A: First of all, I said that the military justice process had worked. Themilitary justice process is a proceeding or a process under the Uniform Code ofMilitary Justice and the Manual for Courts Martial. They're criminalproceedings. There are certain rules that apply to criminal proceedings.Those rules were adhered to -- fully adhered to -- and commanders exercised --as they're supposed to exercise -- independent judgment in arriving atdecisions based on the evidence.

Not every incident, even an incident of this magnitude, necessarily gives riseto criminal culpability. So let's set the military justice process aside forthe moment and go to the adverse administrative actions.

General Fogleman concluded that the actions taken by commanders in the natureof letters of reprimand and letters of admonishment were within the appropriaterange of options available to commanders. That process worked. The militaryjustice process worked.

Where we had a problem was the inconsistencies between performance evaluationsand the adverse administrative actions.

Q: Was the general able to determine why these inconsistencies took place?Why there was a disconnect? Does it suggest some sort of a cultural problem inthe Air Force or a systemic problem that can be addressed somehow?

A: It is being addressed, and you're right, it's a process problem to acertain degree. We are looking at the Air Force personnel process as itrelates to non-judicial punishment and adverse administrative actions such asletters of reprimand and letters of admonition. The issues being addressedinclude how can those actions be reflected in the permanent records ofindividuals in appropriate cases. As I say, we're looking at the processesused by our sister services in this regard.

Q: Is there any consideration that the performance evaluation reflected, in asense, a disagreement between the officers doing the performance evaluationsand the conclusions of the administrative actions?

A: In some cases one could argue that. In other cases, no because individuals-- an individual -- who took administrative action was also in the ratingchain.

Q: Sir, why did you opt against termination and go instead for a slow end tothese careers?

A: Why did we opt...

Q: Why did you opt against a quick termination? Why didn't you just firepeople?

A: We have certain rules and certain procedures that one must go through inseparating individuals from the Air Force. It was determined that thoseactions were unnecessary. That the actions taken by commanders in the fieldcombined with the actions that General Fogleman has now taken, when you put allof those together, that equates to full accountability.

Q: You seem to be saying that people were asked to perform these jobs thatweren't qualified to perform the jobs. Is that what it comes down to?

A: No, not at all. These individuals on the AWACS crew were mission readywith one exception, and that individual was not involved in the actions I'mtalking about. But they were mission ready, they were qualified. The F-15pilots were fully qualified. It is not a question of whether or not they werequalified to perform the jobs they were assigned to.

Q: Then what is the question here?

A: The question is whether or not, on a given day, they failed to meet AirForce standards in such areas as job knowledge, not applying their jobknowledge; two, judgment; and three, leadership.

Q: Distinguish the two, then. If they're qualified for the job, why not onany given day wouldn't they be able to exercise those three specific skills?

A: I think if you would look across the entire society, you would findindividuals who are highly qualified to perform a given task, but on a givenday they may not live up to one's expectations in performing that task.

Q: How did the Air Force go about informing the families of the victims?

A: The families of the victims were contacted last evening -- all thefamilies. That was a concern that we had, to make sure that the individualofficers -- Air Force officers -- who had performance evaluations written onthem by General Fogleman or were subject to the aviation servicedisqualification were notified, and that the family members were notified.

Q: Can we review what the impact of this is on these individuals? And can youreview in more layman's language what happened during this two-year period?Some of these people got promoted, some got nice assignments. Can you go overthat and then say what happened as a result of getting a nice assignment orgetting a promotion or getting a medal?

A: Sure. Whether or not one received a nice assignment, I guess beauty iskind of in the eyes of the beholder. As far as the medal is concerned, and Ishould point out that there were three medals awarded to the individualsconcerned. One medal is an air achievement medal that had absolutely nothingto do... And it's not to one of the F-15 pilots. It had nothing to do withthe incident of 14 April. It had to do with flying so many sorties in thetheater.

Another individual received a Meritorious Service Medal upon his retirement.Again, the citation accompanying that medal has nothing to do with hisinvolvement in the incident in question.

A senior officer who received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal throughjoint channels has had that medal revoked through those same channels.

As far as assignments go, let me start with the two F-15 pilots. Both ofthose pilots were grounded immediately following the incident. LieutenantColonel May has not been in the cockpit since then. Captain Wickson did notreturn to any flying duties until he came back to the United States and went toinstructor pilot school. He just completed that course. As I say, in the caseof both the F-15 pilots, they are now disqualified from aviation service for atleast three years.

As far as their promotions are concerned, a promotion board will considertheir entire record which will include the letter of evaluation issued byGeneral Fogleman.

Q: Colonel Emery's promotion to BG?

A: Colonel Emery was promoted effective the 15th of July 1994, two days afterthe 24-volume report of investigation was completed. I should point out thathe was on the promotion list that was signed out by the President on the 23rdof December 1993. So he was on a promotion list long before this incidentoccurred.

Q: His promotion is going ahead as...

A: He pinned on, as a brigadier general, on the 15th of July of this year.

Q: General, what's the reaction of the families that were contacted? Do theynow feel that justice has been done, or...

A: I have not talked to any of the families. I did not personally make thenotifications, so I cannot answer that question, I'm sorry.

Q: Can you find out more?

A: I think that would be a private matter. You might want to ask the familymembers themselves.

Q: Can you comment to what degree Congressional concern about the way thisinquiry was handled in the first place drove this investigation?

A: Sure. First of all, let's look at the dates involved. The incidentoccurred on the 14th of April, 1994. The report of investigation was released-- the report of the accident investigation -- was released on the 15th ofJuly, 1994. Various types of administrative actions, the military justiceprocess, etc., worked, and everything was completed with the finding of notguilty in the case of Captain Wang.

At that point, as I already described, General Fogleman was in the process ofreviewing performance evaluations in connection with the adverse administrativeactions taken. The fact that congressional hearings were in the wind at thattime has nothing to do with the actions that General Fogleman has taken.

Q: Are you saying that congressional concern and the family outrage had noimpact whatsoever on the decisions made in this case? That they werecompletely irrelevant and no one paid any attention to that?

A: Everybody was concerned about the image that the Air Force was being castin. Everybody was concerned about the fact that people were claiming thatCaptain Wang was being used, in quotes, as a "scapegoat." There were a lot ofcomments in the media about that. Of course we were concerned. I wasconcerned.

However, I am completely satisfied that the military justice process worked asit was designed to work, free from command influence. I am satisfied thatcommanders deliberated long and hard in exercising their independent judgmentin determining what actions are appropriate. I am satisfied that the militaryjudges who worked on this case -- who were totally independent from the chainof command -- exercised their best judgment in reviewing all of the evidenceand making recommendations for the various convening authorities.

But are we concerned -- and have we been concerned -- about the attentionbeing focused on this within the media, and are we concerned about the feelingsof the family members in this regard? You bet we are. Does this drive actionsagainst individuals? No, it does not.

Let me say one more thing in that regard. The easiest thing for the Air Forceto have done in this situation -- the easy out for commanders -- would havebeen to go ahead and refer Captain Wickson, Colonel May, and all of the AWACScrew members, and everybody else associated with this incident to trial bycourt martial. However, commanders were not swayed by media concerns, they werenot swayed by the concerns being registered by family members. They had toexercise their independent judgment in determining what was the right thing todo based upon the evidence. I'm completely satisfied they did just that.

Q: General, there's a disconnect, to use your term here. You're saying in onesense that the commanders did their job, that the criminal justice systemworked.

A: Right.

Q: If that's true, why then is it necessary for General Fogleman to, in manyways, contradict what was done?

A: Let me review the bidding again. What did General Fogleman -- using yourword -- "contradict" concerning the actions being taken or that were taken bycommanders? One, he found that all the justice actions were appropriate. Thecommanders did the right thing, or exercised their independent judgment underthe military justice system. That the process worked.

Two, that the administrative actions were within an appropriate range ofoptions available to commanders.

Q: Worked, but not right, necessarily. That's what I'm driving at. Theyworked, but not necessarily correctly.

A: Neither General Fogleman, Dr. Widnall, Dr. Perry, myself, or the Air ForceGeneral Counsel would ever, in any way, dictate to the military justice system,or dictate to the process, or dictate to commanders on what is a desirableoutcome. That process has to work independently. I don't have anypreconceived notions, and I shouldn't have, nor should any of us have, on how agiven case should turn out.

Q: We're not communicating, general. If it worked properly, there wouldn't beany need for General Fogleman to take any action. That's my question. Why isit necessary for him to get into it at all?

A: Because he found that there were inconsistencies between the administrativeactions taken and the performance evaluations -- separate and apart from themilitary justice actions, separate and apart from the administrative actions.We're focusing upon whether or not an officer's failure to meet Air Forcestandards was appropriately reflected in his performance evaluation.

Q: You're saying he would have found that regardless of whether there was anycongressional concern or family outrage? How soon before the acquittal didthis review of his start?

A: He didn't start the review until after the acquittal. For a review tobegin -- and start pulling records in from all over the countryside -- when youhave a court martial in process, would have been inappropriate... Could havebeen construed... It could have been construed as interference with themilitary justice process.

The judge in the Wang case issued a court order which included GeneralFogleman, saying you will make no comments concerning the incident because thiscould have an impact upon the Wang court martial.

Q: I understand that.

A: A copy of that order is available to you if you'd like to see it.

Q: ...internal review underway before, prior to the acquittal?

A: If I said that, I did not mean to say that. I thought I said he startedhis review about a week after the Wang acquittal on the 28th of June, 1995.

Q: Do you know of any GAO or any other kinds of investigations into the AirForce's handling of the affair?

A: Sure. Recently we were advised that the General Accounting Office is goingto do a review or an investigation or an inquiry concerning the incident, thescope of the review. I'm unaware of it at this time. We're also aware thatthe permanent subcommittee on investigations of the Government AffairsCommittee in the Senate is working at perhaps holding hearings on thismatter.

Q: Can you tell us, in their new positions, will Colonel May and CaptainWickson be teaching young pilots how to react in combat?

A: No.

Q: For a moment I thought maybe you could talk a little bit about what theArmy's response has been.

A: I wish I could, but I don't know.

Q: You said the officers would have an opportunity to make a response or somekind of statement. Have any of them done that? Is there anything they couldsay in that statement that would affect their status?

A: They are free to make any comments that they so desire. Whether or notthey've done that or are in the process of doing that, I do not know.

Q: Could anything they put into their own files, it would become part of therecord as well? Is that what you meant?

A: Correct.

Q: Can that affect their status? Can they say something in their defensethat...

A: They could always do that, but the evaluation and their comments will beincluded in their permanent record.

Q: Can I ask you a question about the videotape of General Fogleman? You'rewilling to show it to us, you're willing to provide us with a transcript ofit?

A: I'm not aware of giving out a transcript concerning...

 

Q: If we record it then we have a transcript of it, right? We have all hiswords. What is the difference of letting us have the videotape?

A: From my perspective, this video was not made for public consumption. I'msaying that up front. It was designed for the Air Force institution. It wasdesigned for our people. The top three enlisted grades, for the officers and,as I say, for senior executive service civilians. For us to go out with copiesof that videotape before they have an opportunity to view it and possibly seeit on television, would be inappropriate, in my opinion.

Now some may disagree with that. I'm just telling you what my opinion is.

Q: Words from it, the sentiment from it, will all be out. That's perfectlyappropriate. But actually seeing his lips move, is that what you're...

A: I'm talking about showing it. Actually showing the video on thenetworks.

Q: ...when it appears in the newspapers and if we have a transcript of it. Ithink you should reconsider...

A: I will take that back to the appropriate...

Q: Is this General Fogleman's decision, or is this your decision? Whosedecision...

A: I can tell you this. General Fogleman made that video Thursday of lastweek at six o'clock in the evening here in the building. He made that video toaddress his Air Force people. He doesn't want anyone to get the idea, I amsure -- and I haven't talked to General Fogleman about this... But I'm sure hedoesn't want anyone to have the idea that this video was made in any way formedia -- for the media, that it was directed to the media. He wants to makedarn sure that his Air Force people see that video first, and that's all I cantell you.

Q: Whose decision was it to not release the video?

A: Final decision? I'm not sure, sir.

Q: General, we were told an hour-and-a-half ago we were going to get to havethe video and put it on television tonight. You come in here today, an hour-and-a-half later and tell us we can't. Something happened in the hour and ahalf, I'm guessing. Tell us what happened, if you can.

A: Well, who's talked to who in the last hour-and-a-half I'm not really sure.But a decision was made, I assume within the past hour-and-a-half or two hours,that the video would be shown today, but would not be released today.

Now let me say one other thing, if I may. At eight o'clock this morning I wassitting up in my office and I was viewing General Fogleman's video for aboutthe fourth or fifth time. I thought... I cannot express personally whatGeneral Fogleman is expressing in this video. I recommend we show it attoday's session. And it is being shown at today's session.

Q: It's a good tool for communicating, right?

A: It is an excellent tool for communicating. But the first communication isgoing to be with Air Force people, as far as the release of that video isconcerned.

Q: If we bring our cameras in here we can shoot the monitor...

A: I don't know. You'd have to ask the DoD folks about that.

Q: But you understand it's being released to the print people as you showit...

A: Yes, sir.

Q: But it's being kept from television...

A: I understand.

Q: ...and that's okay?

Q: I wanted to step back for a moment. I'm still a little bit on thisquestion of the difference between the rating for the performance evaluatorsand the administrative actions. Was that a failure of the performanceevaluators to understand the significance of administrative action? And hasthat question been addressed directly by any actions? Do you have anythingmore about your examination of what the performance evaluators were actuallythinking?

A: It's really a process question. The regulations -- the instructions --give rating officials broad discretion on what they're going to include in aperformance evaluation. I think we have on the table back here -- copies of anAir Force Officer Performance Report. On the front you'll note there are alist of factors. These are Air Force standards. There's a little descriptionunder each one as to what it means.

Next to the Air Force standards there are two blocks to check. One says"meets standards," the other says, "does not meet standards." In this case,based upon his review, General Fogleman concluded that in view of the magnitudeof the incident and the failure to meet standards in certain respects, that theratings given to these officers did not accurately reflect their failure tomeet standards.

Q: But the wrong box was checked?

A: If you want to put it that way, yes, sir.

Q: You said before that on any given day anyone can fail to meet thestandards.

A: Yes, sir.

Q: It's a point of fact that on one given day, 14 April of '94, seven AirForce officers at the same time, in roughly the same place, all failed to meetthose standards.

A: Right.

Q: Is that in itself not a disconnect?

A: The fact that we had seven individuals at one time failing to meetstandards...

Q: What are the odds of that? It's like being hit by a meteorite, isn't it?

A: If you would look at the various safeguards that were in place forOperation PROVIDE COMFORT to preclude an incident such as this from occurring,you will find that there were at least seven, maybe eight, maybe moresafeguards that were in place to preclude this from happening. They allfailed. Every single one of those safeguards failed, and they all failed atthe same time. I agree with you, the chances of that happening are extremelyremote, but it in fact happened.

Q: But are the operational changes you've made then likely to prevent thisfrom happening, say if five people who were in the air don't live up to thoseAir Force standards that you're talking about?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: You're certain in your mind of that?

A: Will it absolutely preclude it from happening? No one can say that 100percent sure. Have we reduced the chances significantly? Yes, we have.

Q: Are these actions that General Fogleman is taking... Is this the end ofthe road in terms of disciplinary actions or administrative actions againstindividuals involved in the incident?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What's the longest any of those who have received these negative letters ofevaluation could remain in the service?

A: Number one, it depends upon promotions. There is a given point in timewhere if an individual is not promoted to the next higher grade, and I'm not ina position to tell you what those specifics are -- where individuals would beseparated.

Q: We're assuming that none of these seven are going to ever get promotedagain. That's the practical impact of the letter. So what's roughly thelongest you think the most senior officers are going to stay?

A: Again, I'm not in a position to give you a timeframe when any individualwould have to retire, or, because of failure to be promoted, would have toretire as to the more junior officers. I just don't know the specifics onthat.

Q: General, has anything like this ever happened before where the Chief ofStaff of the Air Force has gone and taken his own action after the system hasworked?

A: In the area of performance evaluations? I am unaware that the Chief ofStaff of the Air Force has ever taken such actions. It's possible. I'munaware of it. It's an extraordinary action. The Secretary of the Air Forcevested General Fogleman with extraordinary powers. But I think we have to bearin mind the significance of the incident that occurred on the 14th of April oflast year -- an incident that did require extraordinary action.

Q: Could the actions taken by General Fogleman have been taken initially bythe authorities at the time?

A: Could the actions taken by General Fogleman have been taken by commandersin the field?

Q: Yes. At the time they were initially disciplined.

A: Absolutely. We're talking about disconnects primarily between performanceevaluations that were written and reviewed and endorsed by commanders in thefield. Disconnects between those evaluations and administrative actions. Thecommanders in the field wrote the evaluations, so yes, they could have writtena different evaluation.

Q: What about a disqualification from flying? Is that something that couldhave been done by their commanders?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Are their careers over?

A: The actions that have been taken by the commanders in the field combinedwith the actions taken by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force under theauthority of the Secretary have had a significant adverse impact on the careersof the individuals involved.

Q: Is there any concern that the shortcoming on the part of the commanders inthe field on doing these performance evaluations... That this was a consciouseffort to kind of put this incident aside? I know there's been a lot ofcriticism that there was a coverup, there have been a lot of statements to thateffect. Is the Air Force at all concerned that these performance evaluationswere consciously smoothed over?

A: Well, the performance evaluations were consciously written by theindividuals in the rating chain. Were they trying to cover up the involvementof these officers? No. I don't believe that's the case at all.

You have to remember in writing a performance evaluation on an officer, you'reembracing a period of performance -- in some cases up to a year long. We'retalking about, and you've got to understand this, we're talking about goodpeople here. We're talking about good officers. We're talking about peoplewho have devoted their lives to the service of our nation. These are notpeople who are criminals in the ordinary sense of the word, or in any sense ofthe word.

They failed to meet Air Force standards that are up here on a given day.Their failures were part of a chain of causation that contributed to the deathsof 26 soldiers, airmen, and civilians. And when you put all that into thatcontext, and you find that the performance evaluations -- albeit commanders dohave great discretion -- did not record their failure to meet standards in thisincident. That's not acceptable.

Q: Sir, did the Air Force fail them in any way? In training, in equipment?

A: Did the Air Force fail them in any way? There were a number of changes,operational changes, that have been put in place. Did these operationalchanges or the way the operations were set up in the first place excuse theirfailure to meet standards? No, it did not.

Thank you very much.

Mr. Bacon: We're going to show the videotape now. I'm operating on theassumption that most of you came here to cover this story, and not hear me talkabout exercise INTIMATE MOONLIGHT. So after this is over, I will come and takequestions on other topics.

 

[Video Shown. The transcript of Gen. Fogleman's statement to Air Forcemembers can be found in the speech section of the Air Force LINK library athttp://www.dtic.mil/airforcelink.]

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