This article first appeared at the Arizona Daily Independent.It is shared here with permission.
This month, President-elect Donald Trump’s tweet about the F-35 was making headlines at about the same time the plane’s biggest cheerleader, General Mark Welsh, was making headlines of his own.
“The F-35 program and cost is out of control,” Trump tweeted what nearly everyone has known for too long.
Only a day before, Tony Carr on his popular military John Q. Public website penned an Open Letter to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. In his letter, Carr called to the attention of lawmakers “Northrop-Grumman’s recent hiring of retired Gen. Mark A. Welsh, III, who left his role as Air Force Chief of Staff just 167 days ago, to serve on the company’s board of directors. ”
Welsh’s push “for early retirement of the A-10 close air support aircraft despite its demonstrable necessity in the nation’s ongoing conflicts,” is among the questionable decisions made by the General outlined in Carr’s letter. He writes, “Gen. Welsh was so wedded to this decision that he promoted a two-star subordinate to a critical role on the Air Staff after that officer had been investigated and reprimanded for accusing A-10 supporters of treason if they communicated with you, their elected representatives.”
“Gen. Welsh has never satisfactorily explained his insistence on massive personnel cuts that left the Air Force, by his own admission, understaffed by roughly 60,000 airmen. He has never satisfactorily rationalized his decision to oppose continuation of the A-10 without a viable close air support replacement. He has never made it clear why he failed to act on a growing pilot shortage that is now a strategic risk for the Air Force and the nation. His failure to explain makes it fair to question whether he was animated by inappropriate or even unethical motives, such as the creation of a budgetary condition allowing for the award of the B-21 contract,” continued Carr.
“You can kiss good defense goodbye…”
In a recent interview on the James T. Harris radio show, one of the A-10’s designers, Pierre Sprey, discussed the Welsh deal. Welsh, said Sprey “was the guy who started all our woes on the A-10. He came into office as Chief of Staff and one of his prime objectives was to wipe out the close support community and to wipe out the A-10. He spent four years trying to do that. The head of the opposition, the head of the guy that was trying to sabotage the A-10 was General Welsh.”
“Of course as you know, the Air Force did a lot of underhanded things during the course of that four year battle,” continued Sprey. “Year by year the Congress would tell them to lay off and just keep the A-10, and Air Force would just try another slimy maneuver to get rid of it by the back door. Cutting out the maintenance, cutting out overhauls. Stuffing them in Davis Monthan, and chopping up the ones at Davis Monthan. All kinds of disgraceful stuff completely contrary of the wishes of Congress. Just to show you the character of the man behind all that, a year after he gets out of the Air Force and probably a year and a half after he presided over the choice of contractor for the big new B-21 contract which was awarded for Northrop, guess what? A year later he is working for Northrop and he is knocking in probably about a half a million to a million dollars a year sitting on the Board of Directors.”
Harris, reading from an article on Welsh’s new job, stated, “with the addition of Welsh, Northrop’s Board increases to 14 members, 13 of which are independent contractors.” Sprey responded, “Well independent directors – of course independent is term you can take a lot of different ways – I would hardly consider General Welsh an independent director. He is very much a part of the system. But yeah, he helped preside over the award to them about a year ago and now he is knocking down half a million a year or so from the same company he awarded the contract.”
“It is totally legal,” said Sprey, “but it is the reason you can’t get a decent weapons system out of the DoD these days. Because 90 percent of high ranking generals do exactly what General Welsh did. As long as we stand for that; you can kiss good defense goodbye. It is that simple.”
Carr isn’t standing for it
Carr is calling on Congress for an investigation of “what drove Gen. Welsh to govern the Air Force in the manner he did. Given his decisions paved the way for his new employer to collect tens of billions of dollars in revenue from the taxpayer, it is both fair and necessary to investigate the nature of his relationships with Northrop-Grumman at the times those decisions were made.”
Carr believes that an investigation will not find that “actual or implied promises of future compensation in return for decisions favorable to the company” were made. Carr doesn’t believe that there was an explicit quid pro quo. However, he does believe that for “the American public to have confidence in the ethical cleanliness of Gen. Welsh’s decisions, an investigation is necessary.”
“Without an investigation,” argues Carr, “we are left with the appearance of a corrupt system where one hand washes the other, and the American people pay unjustified costs for a weakened defense. This is precisely the sort of appearance that deserves the attention of the Committees in their crucial oversight role.”
Carr makes his request for an investigation on behalf of “many other concerned Americans and tens of thousands of airmen watching closely to see how Congress will respond to this apparent conflict of interest.”
Congress will have their chance to respond in 2017 if they choose to take it.