(Reuters) – An Air Force major general has been formally reprimanded and removed from his job for telling a group of officers that talking to Congress in a bid to block retirement of the A-10 Warthog amounted to “treason,” the Air Force said on Friday.
An investigation of remarks by Major General James Post III, who was the vice commander of Air Combat Command, found that his words to some 300 airmen at Nellis Air Force Base on Jan. 10 may have had a “chilling effect” on some of them, convincing them not to speak with lawmakers.
The incident added fuel to a controversy over efforts to retire the low-flying, tank-killer aircraft, which is highly regarded by ground troops for its ability to provide close air support.
The plane has strong supporters among members of Congress who have so far successfully blocked efforts to retire it.
Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh, himself a former A-10 pilot, has said that given budget and personnel constraints, the Air Force needs to retire the plane to save money and free up people to learn to maintain the new F-35 joint strike fighter.
Post made his remarks while addressing airmen at a Weapons and Tactics Review Board. While fielding questions, he was asked about the status of the A-10 and began to discuss budget constraints facing the department and the reason for the decision to retire the plane.
The inspector general’s investigation interviewed several witnesses who remembered Post using the word “treason” to describe efforts to oppose the Air Force leadership’s decision to retire the plane, either via a social media campaign or by talking to Congress.
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Maj. Gen. James Post, vice commander of Air Combat Command, was quoted as saying, “If anyone accuses me of saying this, I will deny it … anyone who is passing information to Congress about A-10 capabilities is committing treason,” in a report published Thursday on The Arizona Daily Independent.
Air Force Chief Of Staff Has ‘Always Loved’ The A-10, But It’s Got To Go
On Wednesday, Air Force General Mark A. Welsh, the service’s chief of staff, stated that the decision to divest the A-10 Warthog has to be about concerns for a modern, future force, and in that decision, emotion can play no role. “We have not lost thousands of airmen over the last eight years in the 80 percent of CAS missions where the A-10 didn’t show up. So that emotion argument is simply not true,” Welsh stated to reporters Wednesday, according to National Defense Magazine. “As emotional as we want this argument to get, we clearly can do the close-air support mission in a low threat environment with other airplanes,” Welsh added.??