Military

First Two Appointments Made to Panel Studying Rash of Fatal US Military Aviation Accidents

By Dan Parsons | November 7, 2018
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Pilots from 159th CAB, 101st Airborne Division, land an Apache helicopter at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, as the sun sets behind the mountains. (Photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 George Chino)

Pilots from 159th CAB, 101st Airborne Division, land an Apache helicopter at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, as the sun sets behind the mountains. Photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 George Chino

Both of the top two lawmakers on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee have made their appointments to the eight-member blue-ribbon panel charged with studying an ongoing military aviation crisis.

The National Commission on Military Aviation Safety was created by the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act to provide civilians oversight of an aviation readiness review being prepared by the military.

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Both studies are designed to root out causes of a spate of high-profile, often fatal, non-combat aviation mishaps in recent years. While just 21 U.S. troops died in combat in 2017, 80 were killed in non-combat aviation mishaps that military leaders have blamed on multiple interactive factors, including a lack of readiness, spare parts and modernization funding.

Four of the panel members are presidential appointees and one appointment each goes to the chair and ranking member of both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate armed services committees.

Rep. Mac Thornberry announced Nov. 11 the appointment of Pete Geren, who served in senior leadership positions at the U.S. Defense Department (DOD) from 2001 to 2009, including as special assistant to the secretary of defense, acting secretary of the Air Force, undersecretary of the Army and secretary of the Army. That portion of his career spanned the tenures of Defense Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates.

Geren was twice awarded the Distinguished Civilian Service Award, DOD’s highest civilian award, and served four terms in the House representing the 12th District of Texas from 1989 to 1997. Secretary Geren is currently the president of the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, an organization that provides grants to educational, health, human service and cultural nonprofit organizations in Texas.

HASC Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington), who is expected to ascend to committee chair next year, will appoint retired Air Force Gen. Raymond E. Johns Jr., former U.S. Air Mobility Command chief.

Johns served as director of mobility forces for operations in Bosnia and was responsible for strategic airlift in Iraq and Afghanistan. Johns also served as the U.S. Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs.

He was chosen as a White House Fellow in 1991, where he was a senior staff member in the Office of National Service. He served at the headquarters of the U.S. European Command in security assistance, strategy and congressional affairs, and at the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Command as deputy director of strategic plans and policy.

A highly experienced test pilot, Johns has logged more than 5,000 hours in at least 83 different aircraft. He was the chief test pilot and test program manager for the VC-25 Air Force One Replacement Program. He is currently Co-CEO of FlightSafety International.

Geren and Johns are the first two appointees to the commission, which has until March 1, 2020, to conduct a comprehensive study of U.S. military aviation mishaps from fiscal year 2013 to 2018.

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