rules used in 1974 to ground two Washington Air
National Guard airmen with access to nuclear weapons
also applied to a Texas Air National Guard unit
where Lt. George W. Bush was a fighter pilot.
military researchers and a former Texas Guard
lieutenant colonel believe the stringent regulations
-- known as the Human Reliability Program -- may
have been invoked to stop Bush from flying Texas
Air National Guard jets in 1972.
military service more than 30 years ago during
the Vietnam War has been an issue since his first
campaign for president. More recently, some researchers
and national media outlets have been investigating
the period from May 1, 1972, to April 1, 1973,
when Bush left his unit in Texas and moved to
military records from that period are spotty,
and have led some to suggest he was avoiding his
Boston Globe, on the forefront of the issue, reported
Feb. 12 that Bush's acknowledged 1972 suspension
from flight status for failing to take a required
physical should have generated an investigation
and subsequent trail of documents, which have
not been found.
address critics, the White House released Bush's
military records in mid-February, asserting he
left his Texas Air National Guard squadron two
years before the end of his enlistment because
he was no longer needed to fly jets.
if the human reliability rules were invoked, as
they were in thousands of other cases, Bush may
not have voluntarily stopped flying.
is no mention of the Human Reliability Program
in the documents released by the White House.
White House documents do show that Bush's military
job description, called an Air Force Specialty
Code, or AFSC, was listed as "1125D, pilot, fighter
pilot code was among those covered by Air Force
Regulation 35-99, a previously undisclosed document
recently obtained by The Spokesman-Review. Regulation
35-99 contains an extensive explanation of the
Human Reliability Program.
reliability regulations were used to screen military
personnel for their mental, physical and emotional
fitness before granting them access to nuclear
weapons and delivery systems.
the rules, pilots could be removed immediately
from the cockpit for HRP issues, which happened
in the 1974 Washington Air National Guard case.
The two Washington airmen were suspended on suspicion
of drug use, but eventually received honorable
second previously unreleased document obtained
by the newspaper, a declassified Air Force Inspector
General's report on the Washington case, states
that human reliability rules applied to all Air
National Guard units in the 1970s. From 1968 to
1973, Bush was assigned to the 111th Fighter Interceptor
Squadron at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston.
Human Reliability Program, in a nutshell, applied
to every U.S. Air Force and Air Guard pilot in
any aircraft they would fly," said Marty Isham,
a former Air Force briefing officer.
a military historian and researcher, Isham is
writing a book about the Air Defense Command,
which controlled Air Guard units nationwide, including
the Washington and Texas squadrons.
said there is a "good likelihood" HRP regulations
were either applied or about to be applied against
Bush and that is why he stopped flying on April
House spokesman Ken Lisaius said last week he
couldn't answer any questions about HRP.
a question I'd refer to the Department of Defense,"
Lisaius said when asked if the regulations led
to Bush's giving up flying in the Texas Air Guard.
released the president's complete military records,
with the exception of his medical records, and
they speak for themselves."
president was honorably discharged," Lisaius said.
the National Guard Bureau, now headed by a Bush
appointee from Texas, officials last week said
they were under orders not to answer questions.
bureau's chief historian said he couldn't discuss
questions about Bush's military service on orders
from the Pentagon.
it has to do with George W. Bush, the Texas Air
National Guard or the Vietnam War, I can't talk
with you," said Charles Gross, chief historian
for the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.
Bird, Freedom of Information Act officer for the
bureau, said her office stopped taking records
requests on Bush's military service in mid-February
and is directing all inquiries to the Pentagon.
She would not provide a reason.
Force and Texas Air National Guard officials did
not respond to written questions about the issue.
Hogan, a records coordinator at the Pentagon,
said senior Defense Department officials had directed
the National Guard Bureau not to respond to questions
about Bush's military records.
received a direct commission to the Air National
Guard in 1969, pledging to be a fighter pilot
for five years during the height of the Vietnam
was trained to fly F-102 Delta Dagger jets for
the Texas Air National Guard.
the Washington Air Guard in Spokane, the Texas
fighter squadron was part of Air Defense Command,
assigned to defend U.S. borders.
units had F-102s and F-101s, which routinely carried
conventional warheads, but were also capable of
carrying nuclear-tipped missiles, according to
Air National Guard "had airto-air nukes -- the
Genie and Falcon missiles -- and a huge air defense
program. The F-102 had nuclear capability," said
nuclear analyst Robert S. Norris of the Natural
Resources Defense Council.
is co-editor of the Nuclear Weapons Databook and
the author of a new book, "Racing for the Bomb,"
about Gen. Leslie Groves and the Manhattan Project,
the secret World War II plan to build the world's
first atomic bombs.
the 1970s, during the Vietnam War and the Cold
War, Air Guard units were a crucial part of the
Air Defense Command and the North American Air
Defense Command, or NORAD, involving the United
States and Canada, Norris said.
part of that mission, the Air Guard's F-102 and
F-101 fighterinterceptor pilots pulled round-theclock
runway alert duty in Houston, Spokane and other
bases throughout the United States.
air-to-air missiles in the jets were intended
to destroy Soviet bombers and intercontinental
ballistic missiles in midair before they could
strike the continental United States.
to White House documents, Bush flew his F-102
in a deployment to Canada in 1971 -- part of the
show Bush had a "secret" security clearance for
Cold War fighter-interceptor missions and was
certified "combat-ready" to engage Soviet bombers.
April 1972, at the same time the military began
drug and alcohol testing for the first time, Bush
stopped flying the F-102, and according to White
House documents, did not take a required physical
in May. He was formally suspended in September
1972 for failing to take the test. What followed
was a period in which Bush sporadically attended
Guard drills, according to White House documents,
and spent the summer in Alabama.
May of 1972, the Texas Air National Guard was
given an enhanced mission of protecting U.S. borders
by then-Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird.
directive came after a Cuban airliner arrived
undetected at the New Orleans airport, nine years
after the Cuban missile crisis. Congressional
hearings at the time criticized the Pentagon for
the Oct. 26, 1971, incident.
was not given a required annual Officer Efficiency
Report "for administrative reasons" for the one-year
period after he stopped flying in April 1972,
according to the White House records. That period
of time is what some critics refer to as Bush's
"missing year," when records of his service are
House officials have said Bush didn't take his
required physical because he went to Alabama to
work on a political campaign.
documents also include the Sept. 29, 1972, order
suspending Bush from flight status for "failure
to accomplish" the mandatory physical.
a book released last week, "Bush's War for Re-election,"
Texas journalist James Moore calls the phrase
to accomplish" the medical exam "can imply that
Bush did not show up, or he was examined, and
a foreign substance was discovered in his blood,"
Moore argues in his book.
pressed by the national media during the 2000
presidential campaign, Bush said he quit drinking
in 1986 and hadn't used any illegal drugs since
White House records revealed for the first time
that as a teenager, Bush had four citations on
his driving record for speeding and collisions,
which would have required a special enlistment
waiver for him to get into the Air Guard. No waiver,
however, was found in the records released by
the White House, USA Today reported.
Heldt, a private researcher who has spent several
years examining Bush's military records, said
the human reliability rules may answer the mystery
of why Bush abruptly stopped flying.
seems entirely plausible to me, particularly given
what we know about that period of his life," Heldt
said. "We know that he was a drinker, going out
a lot," Heldt said. "That is something that could
get him suspended under the human reliability
an Iowa farmer, is part of a network of amateur
researchers who have used the federal Freedom
of Information Act to examine Bush's military
records. Researchers use the Internet to share
said he tends to vote Democratic, but is not a
party activist. Some of his interest in Bush goes
back to the 2000 presidential campaign when the
issue of Bush's military service first received
national attention, he said.
Lt. Col. Bill L. Burkett, a strategic planner
at Texas Guard headquarters in Austin when Bush
was the governor of Texas, also confirmed that
the HRP regulations applied to the Texas Air National
Guard at the time Bush served.
a New York Times interview and in Moore's new
book, Burkett claims he saw some of Bush's military
records being destroyed in the mid-1990s.
file was scrubbed for embarrassing information,
Burkett alleges, at the direction of Daniel James
III. James headed the Texas National Guard, and
Burkett was his chief military adviser when Bush
was governor of Texas.
becoming president in 2000, Bush appointed James
to head the National Guard Bureau in Washington,
D.C., which oversees all state Air Guard operations.
a prepared statement released Thursday, James
denied Burkett's allegation.
have never been involved in, nor would I condone,
any discussion or any action to falsify any record
in any circumstance for anyone," James said.
issue of Bush's military records, Burkett told
The Spokesman-Review, "has gone into a can so
tight you wouldn't believe it."
acknowledged, however, that he couldn't say conclusively
whether Bush was suspended under HRP rules. "That
is a perfect question -- one that needs to be
pursued," he said.
members of Bush's squadron differ in their recollections
of the human reliability rules.
Roome, Bush's former roommate and fellow Texas
Air Guard pilot, said he doesn't think Bush was
suspended under the nuclear safety rules.
don't think anybody was suspended under them,
that I can recall. I think you're making a whole
lot out of nothing," said Roome, who criticized
the media for pursuing issues involving Bush's
Hail, a civilian historian for the Texas Air National
Guard, said the unit's F-102s were nuclearcapable.
But he wasn't familiar with the human reliability
Chief Master Sgt. Joe H. Briggs, a crew chief
in Bush's squadron and later a recruiter for the
Texas Air Guard, recalled references to the Human
recruits with possible drug histories frequently
were given medical screenings under the regulations,
remember hearing, `This is going to be an HRP
issue,"' Briggs said.
worked as a crew chief on the Texas Guard's F-102
and F-101s, and two other jets, the F-4 and F-16,
between 1957 and 1972.
Brig. Gen. Walter Staudt, who gave Bush his direct
commission as a second lieutenant out of Yale
University in May 1968, said the Texas Air Guard
had nuclear-capable jets, including F-101s and
I never heard of an F-102 carrying a nuclear weapon,
so I don't see why you think these regulations
would have applied," the 81-year-old retired general
love the guy," Staudt said of Bush. "I'm so tired
of this negative crap about him that I'd like
to volunteer to build a barn and take you press
guys out behind it and kick your asses."
of pilots and other military personnel have lost
their job assignments under the human reliability
regulations, which were established in the 1960s,
according to academic researchers.
regulations were made stricter in the 1970s when
the military started screening for drug abuse,
said Dr. Herbert Abrams in a 1991 research paper.
a former professor of medicine at Harvard and
Stanford universities and a research fellow at
Stanford's Center for International Security and
Cooperation, has written extensively about the
military's Human Reliability Program.
statistics from the National Institute on Drug
Abuse, Abrams said military personnel are twice
as likely as their civilian counterparts to drink
1975 through 1984, Abrams' research shows 51,000
personnel, or about 4.5percent a year on average,
were decertified from the Human Reliability Program.
of those investigated and decertified were in
the Air Force.
military takes this very, very seriously," said
Lloyd Dumas, professor at the University of Texas
at Dallas. He is the author of "Lethal Arrogance,"
a 1999 study of human foibles and dangerous technology.
of a lesser rank can even remove their superiors
(under HRP). It's one of the few areas where rank
doesn't matter," Dumas said.
suspension, his spotty final year of military
service and his failure to take his flight physical
are puzzling, Dumas said.
Bush was under the Human Reliability Program,
there should be a paper trail. And if there's
not, that's very, very unusual," the University
of Texas professor said.
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