General Stanley McChrystal, who was removed from his command by President Barack Obama last week, is retiring. The Department of the Army announced that the 34-year veteran has filed his retirement papers. The process usually takes several months.
President Obama, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, sacked McChrystal due to a magazine profile in which the general and his aides criticized the his Administration. The introduction to the Rolling Stone article, “The Runaway General,” reads, “Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”
Even before the issue went to press, the article ignited a political firestorm in Washington, D.C. McChrystal has been indiscreet even before the incident that led to his removal from command. The general publicly embarrassed President Obama last year by going public in a speech in London about h his demand for 30,000 more troops for a surge.
Vice President BIden, who headed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and may swap jobs with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012, had opposed the surge. This likely earned him the enmity of McChrystal and his close circle of aides. The speech forced Obama’s hand.
Some pundits believe that McChrystal’s surge is a failure, and his remarks were an attempt to shift the blame to Obama and his administration. McChrystal’s area of expertise has been special operations, not commanding a large-scale war. General Petraeus distinguished himself by managing just such a scenario in Iraq in 2007, overseeing a surge that was widely hailed a great success.
President Obama justified his relieving of General McChrystal from his command as necessary to defend the constitutional principle of civilian control of the military. All military officers serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States, their commander-in-chief.
Stanley McChrystal has been in the U.S. Army for 34 years, after spending four years at West Point (Class of 1976). He has been a four-star general (full general) for only one year and likely will be retired at three-star rank (lieutenant general) as Pentagon’s regulations require that an officer serve three years at that rank to retire at it and receive the benefits and privileges of that rank.
Other than the five-star ranks given out by Congress and Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman during and immediately after World War II, four-stars (full General or Admiral) is the highest rank in the military. The last officer of five-star rank, General of the Army Omar Bradley, died in 1980.
Some officers can retire at the higher rank after as little as two years, and the President of the United States has the authority to waive the requirement. That would be more likely in the case of a general who distinguished himself in service rather than one who is being chased out of the service with his tail between his legs.
After 30 years of service, a military retiree receives a pension of 75% of their salary. However, the final salary is calculated differently for those who entered the military before 1980. Those who joined or were drafted before 1980 have their pension based on the last year of their earnings, while those from 1980 receive an average of the last three years of their pay.
McChystal’s pension will be generous. A lieutenant general with 34 years of service is paid $15,693.30 per month or $188,319.60 per year. However, since McChystal entered the service before 1980, his pension may be based on his four-star rank: $17,785.80 a month or $213,429.60 per year yielding a pension of $160,072.20 per year, which will be adjusted annually with a cost-of-living adjustment.
As the head of a combat command with four star rank, however, McChrystal received $19,983.60 a month ($239,803.20 per year). If his retirement was based on that, he would receive $179,852.40 annually.
Life After Retrement
There has been a back-lash against General McChystal’s firing within the military. Many anonymous sources are claiming that the comments the general and his aides made to Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings were clearly meant to be off-the-record, and that Hastings violated the general’s trust.
Any sympathy felt for McChyrstal does not reach the top brass.
The Pentagon, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen, supported Obama’s decision. In a joint press release issued with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (a hold-over from the hawkish George W. Bush administration), Admiral Mullen said, he was “stunned” by the Rolling Stone article.
“Military personnel are and must remain a neutral instrument of the government,” the Admiral declared.
Mullen stated that all military personnel are accountable to their civilian leaders and must show respect. He went on to say that military commanders who lose the confidence and trust of their civilian leaders must step down.
The case for letting McChrystal retire at four-star rank likely will have few supporters inside the Obama Administration, the Pentagon or in a Congress controlled by the President’s own Democratic Party.
Some political pundits on the right are speculating that Stanley McChrystal will run for office as a Republican and might actually wind up on the 2012 Republican Presidential ticket. What is more likely in his future is a nice, well-paid job at a military think-tank or an even more remunerative position with a defense contractor.
New York Times, Obama Relieves McChrystal of Command