10 February 2015

Questions from USAF PA About C-123 Veterans' Complaints (see last two blog entries)

In response to my inquiries over the last week or so, Air Force public affairs would like some clarification. I have placed their questions immediately below, and the larger type below them is my response.

 A. Questions to C-123 Veterans:
The emails appear to show that Terry Pittman, of Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group Business Affairs, and the Senior Consultant on Agent Orange for the office of the Secretary of Defense, were opposed  to publicizing the planes’ destruction, so why a complaint with Air Force Materiel Command and the Defense Department.

From the documentation you provided, it looks as though the 75th Air Base Wing spokeswoman Barbara Fisher said the public affairs shop recommended making public that the planes had been destroyed (page 32).

B. My response to USAF PA sent 2/9---------------------------


In 2011 I submitted complaints to AF IG. In July 2011 I submitted the attached USAF PA to PA in the Pentagon, not knowing any other address. In 2013 I visited and filed an IG with AFMC at Wright-Patterson (Mr. Dennis Lange dennis.lange.1@us.af.mil,) without any response, but that complaint focused in failure to abide by FOIA requirements. (note 2/10/15: I have retracted this 2013 complaint to AFMC as they have no record and I did not keep a copy) 

USAF PA may have misunderstood that the 309th AMARG (Terry Pittman's memo) is actually a military organization under AFMC--is that perhaps why USAF PA asked why the complaint went to them?  Answer is...because it is an AF unit and an AF press release never released.

When the 2011 USAF IG was denied, I filed a DOD IG complaint...is that what USAF PA is referring to? It, too, was years ago.

Hill PA may have suggested somewhere, somehow outside the FOIA results released to C-123 veterans, a public release but obviously yielded to the improper editing of it and withholding to await inquires which never came...this disserved the commander, the mission and the media, and certainly the veterans. 

The only recommendation for a release I find by 75th ABW PA is on page 32. This is Ms. Fisher's recommendation to Terry Pittman at AMARG for release of the edited press release to Mr Martin Swann. She recommends providing the press release if Mr. Swann inquires again. As one can see, this is a press release about an event about which the media had to already be aware. 

I offer the example: if reporters don't see columns of smoke rising from the base runway, is PA spared the necessity of a press release about an aircraft downed on takeoff? One they've typed and held ready in the event that plume of smoke is noticed and inquires result? Otherwise, no media inquires = a non-event.

A closer parallel to our C-123 toxic airplanes. If there is a toxic spill in the Childcare Center, is PA spared the uncomfortable necessity of insuring the information is provided those exposed children, parents and staff? Never to be informed, just as our C-123 veterans have never heard from the Air Force. Does PA believe they'd type a press release about a Childcare Center spill and hold it unless parents notice their children sickening and bring their inquiries to PA?

Newsworthy? Here, PA obviously understood a press release was important because one was carefully crafted. Federal lawsuits had happened over these airplanes. Base employees had filed IG complaints reaching the USAF Surgeon General. The Air Staff was involved as well as AFMC leadership. Hundreds of thousands had been spent cocooning and moving the fleet into special HAZMAT storage. The EPA threatened a $3.4 billion fine. The airplanes and their background was historic. AFMC officials traveled to Wisconsin to personally witness and certify the smelting. Individuals kept propellor hubs as souvenirs. The issue of Agent Orange and its toxicity was important to veterans and the public. They felt the importance of the C-123 issue, however, best addressed by keeping it quiet.

The final press release described the destruction as "normal," which it most certainly was not (p.9-10, 20-21)  This was the first and last time such a procedure was used on USAF aircraft at Davis-Monthan. The initial press release (p.11,) more honest and revealing, shows the extent of editing out too much of who/what/when/why/where/how details of concern to the public.

As he is entitled to do, Dr. Young specifically recommended no publicity for the unacceptable reasons he offered. None of the three officials (Major McCrady, Mr. Malmgren, Mr. Boor) to whom his memos were directed took exception and opted to do handle correctly. Indeed, these officials and their organizations cited his memos as their authority for the actions. On page 24, Dr. Downs also agrees with Dr. Young's recommendations. 

Dr. Young, as a contractor, is not at issue here, but actions by Air Force civilian
and military personnel acting on his "decision memos" are. He later told the Washington Post he was acting in an unofficial capacity, yet his recommendations were accepted as instructions and authority for the final shredding and smelting as well as media cover-up.

While these folks were not base or MAJCOM PA officials, my 2011 complaint brought to USAF PA's attention serious concerns about violations of Air Force standards and regulations, requiring response just as to any complaint from any citizen about the Air Force presented to PA. It happens, of course, that PA issues are also in question. 

AFMC decisions are also questioned in my inquiries. The involvement of a large number of others is shown in the distribution of the memo on page 22. The Air Staff and Pentagon are referenced on page 23 and by Mr. Michael Crane's email, as he is on the Air Staff. No action is known to have been taken by any of them regarding the recommended goal "of preventing future liability to the US Air Force and the US Department of Defense." 

Question here, please: what about already exposed veterans...the ones mentioned by Dr. Young? It is clear the intent of this process was to avoid liability to them as well.

As Dr. Young, "Senior Consultant on Agent Orange to the Office of Secretary of Defense" congratulated officials on page 35, this was all done with "minimal publicity". Indeed, there was none at all until exposed C-123 veterans sought care from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

As a former Stan/Eval flight examiner for my crew position, I am not unfamiliar
with the C-123K but rather an expert on it. I believe this, along with an Air Force enlisted and commissioned career, gives me reasonable insight to the issues I've raised and ability to read and understand applicable guidance in the form of operating instructions and regulations. 

I've tried to express myself accurately but suggestions from AF Public Affairs back in 2011 would have been quite helpful to correct any misunderstanding on my part. I welcome it today as well.

Remember: this is not some commercial firm's marketing communications department where press release activity is a sales tool. This is the United States Air Force, informing the public about how the nation's treasure in gold and in the lives our servicemembers is spent. This treasure must be carefully accounted for, which is the only way we insure civilian control over the military through an informed public and their legislature.

Hill AFB PA was not what the nation needed relative to this event, with consequent harm to our health.


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