UPDATED: Rep. Forbes Hammers Gates Pentagon For Muzzling Military
Don't expect to see Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued any subpoenas about Joint Forces Command any time soon.
The House Armed Services Committee's rules require a quorum of members present to issue a subpoena, we understand. That would mean calling back -- during a hard-fought election -- at least 32 members of the committee.
That is unlikely even though Reps. Randy Forbes, Robert Scott and Glenn Nye were joined by 33 fellow lawmakers in signing a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the HASC pressing for issuance of a subpoena should Gates decline an invitation to testify before the committee as an "expert witness."
Forbes and other Virginia lawmakers are furious that the Pentagon apparently decided to shut down JFCom before performing a detailed analysis of the closing's effects. They are also clearly just furious that the command will probably be shut down and that it was announced a few months before an election.
The HASC leadership made it pretty clear at the hearing earlier this week that they are very concerned that someone needs to be responsible to ensuring that the services don't return to their traditional stovepiped ways, a view with which Gen. Hoss Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, agreed. At the same time, neither Rep. Ike Skelton nor Rep. Buck McKeon said they were committed to keeping JFCom open, which is part of the reason for Forbes' letter. He wants to keep the heat on.
But there is a larger issue at stake here, Forbes told me this afternoon. Gates has muzzled the military, Forbes said, firing people who say things he doesn't like and warning other senior leaders not to step out of line.
"This is part of a much bigger picture. It begins with the secretary issuing the gag orders forbidding anyone in Pentagon from discussing the budget last year," the lawmaker said. "They have woven this tapestry of silence around the Pentagon and it is threatening to liberty itself."
Forbes' comments are reflective of opinions I have heard from a range of senior military officers from three services over the last few months. And there are rumors that, should the GOP take the House, hearings about Gates' management will be held with a sharp focus on whether his actions have led to officers afraid to express their professional military opinion for fear of being fired or losing a promotion.