The vice commander of the Air Combat Command, Maj. Gen. James Post, has been relieved of his command for telling airmen that it would be "treason" to give members of Congress information that would interfere with the Air Force's attempt to retire the A-10 attack jet from active duty, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.
Post was relieved following an investigation by the Air Force Inspector General. That probe concluded that, whether he intended to or not, Post had interfered with the right of service members to lawfully communicate with Congress, which is a violation of U.S. Code and Pentagon regulations.
Post made the comments before 300 personnel in January at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, and the Air Force's internal watchdog began investigating the incident soon thereafter.
The inspector general's report concluded that Post's "choice of words had the effect of attempting to prevent some members from lawfully communicating with Congress."
In a news release, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command, said Post "understands the impact of his actions and has expressed his sincere regret to me, a regret he extends to all airmen."
Post, whose next posting has not been announced, sounded a contrite note in a statement.
"The objective of my comment was simply meant to focus the attention of the audience on working within the command's constraints," he said. "It was sincerely never my intention to discourage anyone's access to their elected officials. I now understand how my poor choice of words may have led a few attendees to draw this conclusion and I offer my humble apology for causing any undue strain on the command and its mission.
"I absolutely respect and understand the decision made by Gen. Carlisle and I hope my departure from ACC will enable the command to refocus on the mission as soon as possible," he added.
In a bid to save money, the Air Force has been trying to retire the A-10 "warthog" attack jet from service for several years, but the jet has its defenders in Congress, who claim it has been a valuable supplement to U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican who sits on the Armed Services Committee, has been among the staunchest defenders of the A-10. She welcomed the news that Post had been relieved of command in a statement on Friday.
"I appreciate the thorough investigation that the Air Force Inspector General conducted into Major General Post's comments," Ayotte said. "I hope this unfortunate incident will eliminate any doubt regarding the legal right of a service member to lawfully communicate with Congress about the A-10 or any other issue of concern."