“Fight hard for what you believe in, but if you lose, salute the flag and
execute the policy with the same vigor that you opposed it.”
Most of the main stream media portrayed LTC Vindman’s removal from the White House on Friday as his being fired. That is not a true description. He was reassigned as he should have been several years ago. Most people don’t understand the staffing of the National Security Council (NSC). So let’s start there.
Every position in government is listed on some authorization document that is used for personnel management and funding, except those on the NSC. The NSC is authorized very few posts, even though in the Obama administration it had more than 400 people working in it. How it works is that the NSC advisor puts the word out to the executive branch that there are so many positions that he needs to fill. He seeks people to be interviewed and if acceptable to be seconded (people sent to augment a staff) to his staff. There are also a small number of experts from academia who can be seconded or paid by the US government. Those seconded continue to be paid by their parent organization.
Usually the building of an NSC staff begins immediately after a presidential election so that by the middle of February following a presidential election the staff is fairly completely filled and the national security decision-making process and organization are clearly defined. (I was involved in this process during the transition to the Reagan administration.) A short vignette. In those days the Army had been truly left behind budget wise during the Carter years and we were trying to place officers on both the NSC and State Department staffs. We wanted some friendly voices in those organizations.)
In LTC Vindman’s case he was an Obama holdover who was expected to be politically neutral and a team player as an Army officer. This, as we now know, was quite distant from the truth. If one reads his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee he can see that Vindman’s biggest concern was that the president did not follow the talking points that he had drafted (and maybe even coordinated with other NSC and department staffers, if he was doing his job). That is what staffers do. That does not mean that principals always follow the talking points provided. In the case of policy makers this can often be the case because of knowledge they have or agendas they have that they haven’t shared.
In Vindman’s case he had shared experiences with both the “whistleblower” and members of Representative Schiff’s staff—all of whom had been on the NSC staff together. Did Vindman share his concerns that the president was not following the policy position that he and his cohorts supported? Probably! We will find out soon. Is this a crime? Maybe? Was it disloyal? You bet! Vindman knew better than his boss and was determined, as a member of the swamp, to share his frustration while pursuing his policy.
Did Vindman violate the law when he testified to Congress? Most likely! He disobeyed a lawful order of the commander in chief. Will he be tried—most likely not. What will happen to him? He will be assigned a position on the Army Staff—maybe even one specially created for him. He could easily lose his security clearance or get it downgraded to confidential (lowest clearance out there) based upon his recent transgressions and demonstrated lack of loyalty. Hence the need for a special position. He will be watched very carefully in whatever position he is assigned as his loyalties have been shown to be to the swamp, not the current administration.
There is a dictum that applies to all military leaders and staffers: “Fight hard for what you believe in, but if you lose, salute the flag and execute the policy with the same vigor that you opposed it.”
With respect to the swamp one should expect to find similar people throughout the government. Senator Schumer and the democratic minority did everything that they could to slow down the staffing process following the 2016 election. This insured that there were Obama holdovers as someone had to keep the government running. One would expect that these holdovers are being eliminated or at least identified and contained. If this is , the Trump government remake will accelerate into 2021. And if he is re-elected by 2025 the whole makeup of government could/should be changed and the swamp drained, or at least swim-able.