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Senate Balks at Promoting Officer Who Downed F-4

Capt. Timothy Dorsey

A Senate committee has refused to approve a promotion to admiral for a Navy officer who, as a young fighter pilot during a training mission, deliberately shot down an Air Force plane whose flier has suffered a life of pain from his forced ejection.

The Senate Armed Services Committee took no confirmation vote on the nomination of Capt. Tiimothy W. Dorsey as the 112th Congress ended.

Because the Senate did not act, the nomination goes back to the White House. The Navy has the option of trying to resubmit his nomination during the 113t Congress, which convened Thursday.

The Washington Times first reported in February that President Obama had submitted Dorsey to the Senate despite the officer’s misdeed as an F-14 Tomcat pilot 25 years ago during an exercise over the Mediterranean Sea.

A source close to the committee told The Times on Thursday that the Navy was aware of his checkered past but did not tell the office of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, which forwarded the nomination to the White House.

Committee staff members read The Times story on Feb. 16, the same day the nomination officially reached the Senate. It arrived absent any information about the incident or the impact it had on the shot-down pilot, the source said.

The committee expects the Pentagon to “fully inform it on any potential adverse information,” the source said, adding that the panel sent a letter to Panetta's office asking for full disclosure.

The source also said the Navy and Pentagon "did not fully grasp” that there was a victim, retired Air Force Col. Mike Ross, who has undergone seven back surgeries and lives in constant pain.

Ross told The Times Thursday the Navy “made a mistake” because he believes the promotion board did not thoroughly investigate Dorsey's background.

“Obviously, there was a mistake in the Navy's records check before they brought somebody up for promotion with that kind of a mark on their record,” he said.

Dorsey told The Times: “I still look forward to the confirmation process and look forward to confirmation by the Senate."

In 1987, while flying off the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, Lt. j.g. Timothy W. Dorsey fired a missile at an Air Force F-4 reconnaissance jet piloted by then- Lt. Ross. He and his backseat officer ejected as the F-4 plunged into the sea.

A Navy investigation called Dorsey's decision an “illogical act” that “raises substantial doubt as to his capacity for good, sound judgment.”

“The September 22, 1987, destruction of USAF RF-4C was not the result of an accident, but the consequence of a deliberate act,” the investigator wrote. “His subsequent reaction [to the radio command] demonstrated an absolute disregard of the known facts and circumstances.”

The Navy banned him from flying for life.

At the time, his father, James Dorsey, commanded the carrier USS America. He later attained three-star rank as a vice admiral.

The younger Dorsey reinvented himself as a Navy Reserve intelligence officer, earned a law degree, served in the war on terror and was picked for a unit command as an admiral.

Upon learning of Dorsey's nomination to admiral, “I almost got sick,” Ross told The Times last year.

His ejection caused a powerful whiplash that resulted in a degenerating spine and a premature end to a career he believed was on a path to make the rank of general.

“I’m not trying to say I flew when I was unable. I never did that," Ross said. “But it got to the point where I started getting myself in positions where I was doing more desk work than flying.”

All told, he said, he has had seven back surgeries in which surgeons have installed screws, plates and rods to keep him functional.

Fished out of the water and taken to the Saratoga, Ross waited for an apology from Dorsey. It did not come until last year, when the former Air Force pilot received a note from Dorsey as his nomination was pending in the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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