Less than six months after his retirement from the Marine Corps, Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest defense contracting corporation, has added General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Dunford to their Board of Directors to assist with their classified business and security committee and the nominating and corporate governance committee. Dunford served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) from 2015 to 2019 and was previously the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC).

Dunford’s first pick for his post-military career began well before his military service was completed. Dunford was pursuing the deanship of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Ironically he was passed over due to the university’s desire to shift the focus of the Fletcher School to climate change and sustainable development after it had been led by retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis for five years.

There are many pundits calling for a stop to the practice of high-ranking military leaders quickly transitioning to cushy, well-paying board jobs with defense contractors, but in General Dunford’s case, what is being overlooked here is the lack of accountability he faced during his time in the Marine Corps regarding the best interest of his fellow Marines. He is yet another retired CMC to move on to greener pastures in spite of a questionable track record with how he handled certain high-profile war crimes cases. Should he be allowed to move on without having to answer for his missteps like so many others have been able to do already?

In 2015, several members of Congress wrote letters to then-CMC Dunford expressing their concern for a group of Marine Corps special operators in MARSOC Fox Company who were falsely accused of indiscriminately killing Afghan civilians in 2007 and were being forced to live with the stigma of being labeled war criminals in spite of having been “cleared” by a Court of Inquiry. Gen Dunford’s response to one U.S. Senator was that “No Marines from MSOC-F faced any judicial or adverse administrative action…nor is there any adverse administrative information in their military records.”

However, in 2019 the Department of the Navy released an official report directing the removal of adverse information that was in the official military record of the commanding officer of MARSOC Fox Company — Major Fred Galvin. Dunford never responded to or acknowledged this.

The independent panel concluded that the Marine Corps was to clear references to the ambush (the event in question) from Major Galvin’s official record and to reconsider him for promotion to lieutenant colonel, with potential reinstatement to the Marine Corps. The BCNR (Board for Correction of Naval Records), which acts on behalf of the Secretary of the Navy, effectively exonerated Major Galvin and his Marines of wrongdoing on March 4, 2007.

The U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps have opted not to thoroughly correct this issue and have avoided taking appropriate action in the years that passed since the ambush. To this day, an apology has never been made by any of the political or military leaders who rushed to judgment in accusing these men.

Portions of the BCNR findings from their January 2, 2019 report.

The BCNR report clearly shows that General Dunford lied through multiple official correspondences to five members of congress about this matter — a felony offense. Yet General Dunford was still promoted from CMC to the CJCS during the period in which the late Congressman Walter Jones sponsored H.Res. 21 in the 115th Congress.

The purpose of H.Res. 21 was to request that the CMC make an official statement that the Marines of Fox Company were “not at fault for the ambush on 4 March 2007 in Bati Kot, Afghanistan.” This congressional act was completely ignored for two years by Marine Corps leaders (including Dunford as CMC and CJCS). Congressman Jones was about to refile this resolution in the 116th Congressional session but, sadly, he passed away.

In spite of his self-serving missteps, General Dunford is not the problem. The problem is a military system and culture that promotes the use of politics to further one’s career after the military. Dunford is just the most recent example of this. Service for many senior officers is a game of chess to see if they can be left standing at the end of their enlistment or commission. It is a mindset of “what can be done for me” more than “what can I do for my fellow men and women in uniform.”

Too often things are only done for others when it benefits the career advancement of the one making the decision. As a result, men like those in MARSOC 7 are ignored and forgotten. It is time to start demanding that our leaders change this pattern of behavior.

 

For more information on this subject, you can read the full series here: