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Report: Bush Short On Guard Duty

GENERIC George W. Bush Texas National Guard Generic
CBS
A Boston Globe examination of previously released records shows that President Bush "fell well short of meeting his military obligation" in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

The newspaper says that on two occasions while serving in the Guard, Mr. Bush signed documents in which he pledged to fulfill training commitments or else face an involuntary call-up to active duty.

"He didn't meet the commitments, or face the punishment, the records show," the Globe says.



60 Minutes Correspondent Dan Rather has an exclusive interview with former Texas House speaker and Lt. Governor Ben Barnes, about the role Barnes says he played in getting George W. Bush into the Texas Air National Guard, Wednesday, 8:00 p.m., ET/PT

Meanwhile, under pressure from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the Pentagon has released what it calls newly found files relating to Mr. Bush's National Guard service.

The Pentagon and the Bush campaign have insisted for months that they could find no more records of Mr. Bush's military records.

The more than two-dozen pages of files include Mr. Bush's report card for flight training and dates of his flights.

The records show Mr. Bush ranked in the middle of his 1969 flight training class and flew 336 hours for the Texas Air National Guard, mostly in the F-102A fighter.

Mr. Bush's Vietnam-era service has become an issue in the presidential campaign as the candidates spar over who would make the best commander in chief. Supporters of Democratic nominee John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, have criticized Mr. Bush for serving stateside in the National Guard. Kerry's Republican critics claim Kerry did not deserve some of his five medals.

The Globe report cites a document Mr. Bush signed in July 1973, before he transferred out of his Texas unit to attend Harvard Business School. The document stated that Mr. Bush had 60 days to locate and sign up with a new Guard unit in the Boston area.

But Mr. Bush never signed up with a Guard unit in Boston, the Globe reports. Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett told the Washington Post in 1999 that Mr. Bush completed his Guard service in the Boston area with an Air Force Reserve unit. "I must have misspoke," Bartlett, now the White House communications director, said recently.

In May 1968, at the beginning of his Guard service, Mr. Bush also signed a "statement of understanding" in which he promised to attend at least 24 days of annual weekend duty and 15 days of annual active duty.

But records show that Mr. Bush performed no service for one six-month period in 1972 and for another three-month period in 1973.

The Globe investigation showed that "Bush's attendance at required training drills was so irregular that his superiors could have disciplined him or ordered him to active duty in 1972, 1973, or 1974. But they did neither."
Bartlett, in a statement to the Globe, insisted that Mr. Bush would not have been honorably discharged if he had not "met all his requirements."

But some military experts disagreed with Bartlett's conclusion. Retired Army Colonel Gerald A. Lechliter, who has studied Mr. Bush's records, told the Globe, "He broke his contract with the United States government – without any adverse consequences. And the Texas Air National Guard was complicit in allowing this to happen."

Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan, also studied the Bush records, and concluded that Mr. Bush ''gamed the system."

The newly released Pentagon records show Mr. Bush, a lieutenant in the Texas Air National Guard, ranked No. 22 in a class of 53 pilots when he finished his flight training at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia in 1969.

Over the next three years, he logged 326.4 hours as a pilot and an additional 9.9 hours as a co-pilot, mostly in the F-102A jet used to intercept enemy aircraft. Of the 278 hours he flew in the interceptor, about 77 hours were in the TF-102A, the two-seat trainer version of the one-seat fighter jet.

The records show his last flight was in April 1972, which is consistent with pay records indicating Mr. Bush had a lapse of duty between April and October of that year. Mr. Bush has said he had permission to go to Alabama in 1972 to work on an unsuccessful Republican Senate campaign. Mr. Bush skipped a required medical exam that cost him his pilot's status in August of that year.

But a group called Texans for Truth planned to launch an ad this week in which a lieutenant colonel in the Alabama Air National Guard questions Mr. Bush's absence from his National Guard service in Montgomery, Ala. The group says it plans to spend about $100,000 to run the ad.

The ad asks "Was George W. Bush AWOL in Alabama?" and implores: "Tell us whom you served with Mr. President."

In the ad, Bob Mintz claims he served at the same air base and in the same unit as Mr. Bush in 1972 but never saw him there. "It would be impossible to be unseen in a unit of that size," Mintz says in the ad.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan insisted Tuesday night that the newly released documents "confirm that the president served honorably in the National Guard."

Democratic National Committee communications director Jano Cabrera disagreed. "For months George Bush told the nation that all his military records were public," he said. "Now we know why Bush was trying so hard to withhold these records. When his nation asked him to be on call against possible surprise attacks, Bush wasn't there."