Bill Could Force ex-COLE Skipper Into Retirement

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May 16th, 2006  
G Connor

Topic: Bill Could Force ex-COLE Skipper Into Retirement

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Bill could force ex-Cole skipper into retirement

Cmdr. Kirk S. Lippold

By DALE EISMAN, The Virginian-Pilot
© May 16, 2006

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Senate committee is recommending changes in military promotion regulations that could force the former skipper of the Norfolk-based destroyer Cole out of the Navy in 2008.
Language quietly inserted into a Pentagon spending bill by the Senate Armed Services Committee early this month would require that Cmdr. Kirk Lippold retire unless President Bush resubmits his nomination for promotion to captain and he is confirmed by the Senate.
The committee declined to act on Lippold’s nomination when Bush originally submitted it in 2002. Lippold’s name was returned to the White House when Congress adjourned at the end of that year, but the Navy still considers him eligible for promotion, and Bush could renominate him at any time.
Though the committee’s chairman, Virginia Sen. John Warner, has questioned Lippold’s “qualities of judgment, forehandedness and attention to detail,” a Warner spokesman said Monday that his boss has made no decision about Lippold’s fitness for promotion.

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John Ullyot, Warner’s press secretary, declined comment on whether Warner authored the provisions recommended by the committee. The language concerning promotions is part of a spending bill unanimously endorsed by the committee, he said .
Lippold is not singled out by name in the committee plan, which would require Bush to act by October 2008 to renominate any officer who has been nominated but whose name has been returned to the White House without a vote by the Senate. Lippold and two other officers are the only Navy personnel in that category, the Navy confirmed Monday.
If Lippold and the others are not renominated, they would be required to retire.
For future promotions, the committee plan would give Bush and his successors one year to renominate any officer whose original nomination is not acted on by the Senate. If the p resident fails to act, the officer would be removed from the promotion list and would have to go through the Navy’s internal review process before being nominated a second time.
The law now allows Lippold to remain on the promotion list indefinitely as selected but not confirmed.
Lippold’s leadership in the aftermath of an October 2000 suicide bomber attack on the Cole was widely credited as critical to saving the ship. A Navy investigator, however, concluded that safety precautions Lippold failed to implement might have stopped the attack or reduced its impact on the ship and crew – findings later set aside by then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark.
Seventeen sailors died in the attack, which blew a 40-foot hole in the side of the Cole as it was being refueled in the harbor in Aden, Yemen.
Clark has said that Lippold took reasonable precautions to secure the ship. In 2004, Clark and the chiefs of the other service branches joined in signing an unusual letter that declared Lippold “fully suited and qualified for promotion.”
Lippold recently broke years of public silence on questions about his promotion, granting interviews in which he called on the Navy and the Senate to act. He declined Monday to comment on the new legislation, saying he needs time to study it.
The spending bill, with the promotion language, is expected to be considered by the full Senate within the next several weeks.
Some of Lippold’s friends have alleged that Warner is effectively blocking Lippold’s promotion by promising to convene a public hearing and re-examine the Cole bombing should the president nominate him again.
The committee normally conducts such reviews only for the promotions of senior officers, such as the chiefs of staff of the military branches and a handful of combatant commanders, and the administration is thought to be opposed to breaking that tradition and publicly rehashing the Cole incident.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., was committee chairman when Lippold was originally nominated. Warner has said he did not block action then.
In addition to Lippold, the committee’s new language would directly affect Cmdr. Paul Thompson and Capt. David Mercer, who were selected by the Navy but not acted on by the Senate for promotion to captain and rear admiral, respectively.
The Senate’s inaction on Mercer, who was nominated last year, came after a Navy request that the service be given more time to review his case.
Thompson, meanwhile, has been stuck at the commander’s rank since 1990, when the Senate failed to vote on his nomination. A lawyer, he worked in the White House as a military assistant in the mid-1980s and was investigated but never charged in a scandal involving the sale of arms to Iran and the transfer of the sale proceeds to “Contra” fighters opposing the then-government of Nicaragua.
May 17th, 2006  
Looks like he's getting screwed over by Senator Warner.