House Democrat Calls for Explanation of Air Force Courts-Martial Figures

Air Force photo by A1C Grace Lee.

A senior House Armed Services Committee Democrat has asked the Air Force to explain why it’s never court martialed a general officer, accusing the service of having “different spanks for different ranks.”

The request came from Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the Military Personnel Subcommittee, during a Feb. 7 hearing on senior leader misconduct. During the hearing, Speier said she had a problem with the fact that “there have been 70,000 courts-martial in the Air Force, for instance, and not one general officer has ever been court-martialed.”

USAF spokeswoman Brooke Brzozowske said in an email last week that “lawyers confirmed we’ve had no Air Force courts martial with general officers,” however, she could not immediately confirm the 70,000 figure, which is an estimate from Protect Our Defenders. Don Christensen, a retired USAF colonel and president of the organization, described Protect Our Defenders as “a human rights organization dedicated to fighting for victims of military sexual assault and harassment and reforming the military justice system.”

Christensen told Air Force Magazine the 70,000 figure was “a conservative estimate on my part.” He said the Air Force now tries about 600 courts-martial a year, but 20 years ago it was around 1,000, and it was higher before that because the Air Force was much bigger in the 1950s through 1980s.

“I served as an AF JAG for over 23 years and served as chief prosecutor for the AF for four years, so I’m confident the 70,000 number is a fair estimate,” he said. “Despite the fact there have been many worthy candidates over the last 70 years, not a single Air Force general has ever been prosecuted.”

Speier asked USAF Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Seve Wilson, a witness at the hearing, to write her a memo on the situation.

“To have 70,000 court-martials in the Air Force and never once a court martial of an officer suggests that maybe there’s something to that,” she said.