Edwards Air Force Base Locked Down for Mass Contraband, Urinalysis Sweep


An aerial view of the new control tower with the old tower in the background.

Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer claims to hold a high opinion of the airmen of Edwards Air Force Base, referring to its membership as “the best Wing in the AF.” But if his recent decisions are any guide, his actual opinion varies considerably.

Schaefer, who previously served as Special Assistant to the CSAF and SecAF for F-35 Integration, put Edwards on lockdown last Sunday night so security forces could inspect the vehicles and test the urine of everyone entering the base.

Here’s the email he sent to the 412th Test Wing earlier this week:

Subject: Last Sunday Night

412th Test Wing Team,

This past Sunday night, our security team conducted a 100% inspection of all vehicles and 100% urinalysis of active duty service members at the North, South and West Gates. This was NOT an exercise, but an unscheduled inspection to search for potential contraband entering our installation. Unfortunately, this created unusually long lines at all three gates.

I apologize for any inconvenience this caused you and your family, during your return to Edwards this weekend. However, there is nothing more important to me than the safety and security of our people and their families.

If you are wondering if we found anything, unfortunately the answer is “yes,” which is why we conduct these inspections.

We will continue to conduct unscheduled inspections in the future, but I promise a better plan, so folks are not waiting at the gates for so long.

Thank you for all you do for the best Wing in the AF and thanks for all you do for our nation!

V/R
Brig Gen Schaefer

Because nothing says “we don’t trust you” like an unscheduled contraband inspection, and nothing says “I have unlimited authority” like a 100% physical search and urinalysis without reasonable suspicion.

Air Force senior officers are completely out of control.

They’re also counterproductive. Ask yourself how much this effort would have to find to justify the associated cost of the labor involved. Then add in the lost productivity for those held up. Then add in the intangible costs to airmen and families, along with the dent in morale caused by such a mass insult. Unless this sweep uncovered a dirty bomb hidden in the hull of a cocaine smuggling boat being dragged behind a van filled with penitentiary escapees carrying AK-47s, it’s extremely unlikely that it justified itself in cost/benefit terms. But generals seldom consider costs imposed on others, because they perceive no requirement to do so.

151202-F-AA170-001
Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, Commander of the 412th Test Wing and Edwards Air Force Base.

Take note of the many inconsistencies in Schaefer’s email, bearing in mind that inconsistent logic in the application of power is one of the leading signals of insufficient or problematic rationale.

First, a sweep motivated by “safety and security” would be reacting to particularized information indicating a threat. Schaefer admits this was a pick-up game. What threats to safety and security was he expecting to find, based on what intelligence?

Second, an inspection motivated by safety and security wouldn’t be looking for contraband or sweeping for drug use. These are criminal searches.

Third, Schaefer refers to his organization as the “best Wing in the AF” while explaining that he thought so little of the base population and its families that he felt it necessary to cast suspicion over thousands of them in order to pursue the tiny number of rule-breakers who exist in any group of appreciable size.

From a law enforcement perspective, this is just lazy, and the sort of thing that would get a mayor fired if he was accountable to citizens. Make no mistake, installation commanders are exercising a form of mayoral authority. Can you imagine the reaction if one of them locked down an entire city of 10,000 Americans in order to sweep for contraband and screen for drug use? Would that person be considered a judicious and responsible wielder of the power conferred upon him?

But the most unintentionally revealing aspect of this debacle comes from Schaefer’s own words, when he claims security officials found something … but doesn’t say what that something was. Speculating, this is probably because what was found will turn out to have zero connection to “safety and security” and everything to do with criminal enforcement. This would expose his rationale as flawed, but by not publicizing it, he surrenders a sizable portion of the deterrent value he theoretically hoped to extract from the whole thing.

The current crop of Air Force commanders is addicted to this particular form of abuse: making claims of “safety and security” as a foundation to ease the task of crime prevention. However well-meaning, it is unmoored from valid authority and thus an unjustified stretching of power beyond its reasonable bounds. Enforcement actions that try to prevent are always problematic, because they assume criminality without due process. Trying to explain this to commanders who are not required to understand the laws they’ve sworn to support and defend is like trying to explain calculus to a golden retriever.

Airmen at Edwards needn’t worry, though. Just like every other base population subjected to the morally and logically flawed actuation of collective responsibility, they’re still “the best” … and therefore entitled to the same love as any partner in any (abusive) relationship.

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