Senate panel opposes increase in fired Air Force chief's pension

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- The Senate Armed Services Committee, strongly disagreeing with President Bush, says fired Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael J. Dugan should not be allowed to remain on active duty until Jan. 1 in order to boost his annual pension by $17,650.

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney dismissed General Dugan Sept. for disclosing U.S. military options against Iraq. But Mr. Bush told the Senate he would let General Dugan stay on active duty until the new year, when across-the-board pay raises for top military officers go into effect.


The committee, in a report released yesterday by Chairman Sam Nunn, D-Ga., said the administration's special treatment of General Dugan was "unjustified" because many other officers ordered into retirement at about the same time would not be permitted to stay on active duty long enough to collect the higher pensions.

"The committee strongly disagrees with this course of action," the three-page report said. The committee ordered copies of the report sent "immediately" to Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney and was awaiting their reaction.


While the Senate's approval is required to retire General Dugan in his four-star rank, its recommendation concerning his date of retirement is only advisory.

White House and Pentagon officials had no immediate comment on the committee report.

The committee approved Mr. Bush's request to allow General Dugan to retire as a four-star general and praised the Air Force's former top officer for his 32-year career.

But it said General Dugan should be removed from active duty within 90 days of his Sept. 17 firing for telling reporters about U.S. war plans to bomb Iraq and perhaps kill Saddam Hussein and his family.

A 90-day limit would force General Dugan out of the military by Dec. 17 and leave him with an annual taxable pension of about $60,000, or $17,650 less than he would receive as of Jan. 1. The Senate approved the report during its rush to adjourn over the weekend.

The committee said the "primary reason" that General Dugan, 53, is continuing his active-duty service into the new year "is to permit him to take advantage of the increase in the basic pay for the grade of general."

The 90-day transition period usually given retiring officers before they must depart is "generous" and should not be extended to give the former combat pilot a "substantial increase in retired pay," the report said.

General Dugan is now a special assistant to Air Force Secretary Donald B. Rice at the Pentagon, where he is supervising studies on future pilot needs and the service's officer evaluation system.