Military Chain of Command Needs Accountability the Senate Must Reform the Process for Reviewing Retirement Nominations of Three- and Four-Star Officers

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EARLIER this month I created a controversy when I raised questions with the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Navy regarding the career of a four-star admiral. Senate rules require a vote to confirm the retirement nomination of any three- or four-star officers. Typically, the Senate votes to confirm without debate. Since coming to the Senate two years ago, I have adopted a different approach.

Americans deserve to know that when the Senate confers a high honor on military leadership, it does so with clear justification and solid grounding in the facts of a person's career. Those we honor should serve to a higher standard. The vote to confirm should not be a formality.

We should review nominees carefully. If a senator has questions or concerns, he or she has every right to get them addressed in an accurate, timely manner. This was not my experience in reviewing the retirement nomination of Navy Adm. Henry Mauz. Because of my frustrating experience, I have decided the best use of my time is not on a single nomination, but in reforming the overall review and nomination system.

When the Mauz nomination came before the full Senate, I carefully reviewed his history. Admiral Mauz is the commander in chief of the US Atlantic Fleet. On May 10, he was nominated by President Clinton to retire in grade as a four-star admiral.

Two cases involving Admiral Mauz caused me concern. First, Lt. Darlene Simmons, a lawyer for the Navy, alleges inappropriate action by Mauz with respect to the investigation and disposition of her sexual harassment case. In addition, Senior Chief George Taylor, a military policeman, alleges that Mauz inappropriately used government assets and retaliated against him for blowing the whistle. Both Lieutenant Simmons and Senior Chief Taylor expressed to the Senate Armed Services Committee their view that Mauz should not be retired at four stars.

In Simmons's case, the Navy acknowledged that she was sexually harassed by her superior, and it apologized; so some senators asked me what it had to do with Mauz. Simmons's complaint worked way up to the level of Mauz because others in her chain of command had failed to stop the retaliation she was repeatedly subjected to after she reported a serious case of sexual harassment. …