WASHINGTON -- A California congressman said Tuesday that he was considering asking the Pentagon inspector general to investigate why President Barack Obama hasnt approved the nations highest military award for gallantry for a former Army captain whose nomination has been stalled at the White House since last summer.
Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., R-Calif., said that before requesting a probe, he wanted to give the Army and the Defense Department a final opportunity to explain the delay in awarding the Medal of Honor to former Army Capt. William Swenson for valor for acts he performed during a 2009 battle in eastern Afghanistan.
Seeking an inspector generals inquiry is something that were talking about if the Army and the Defense Department dont come out and say why Swenson hasnt been awarded the medal yet, said Hunter, a former Marine who served two combat tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. It shouldnt be complicated to come out and do the right thing.
In an interview with McClatchy, Hunter said the holdup with Swensons decoration was emblematic of wider problems with a military award system that hes long charged lacks transparency and is susceptible to improper interference and manipulation.
Therere too many political considerations in the Medal of Honor process, and I dont know what happens now with Secretary Panetta leaving if that is going to delay things even more, Hunter said, speaking of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Congress shouldnt have to get involved in this. You simply want the awards process and the process within DoD to be transparent and to have people held accountable.
The White House didnt respond to an emailed request for comment. Lt. Col. Laurel Devine, the deputy director of Army Public Affairs, referred an inquiry to the Defense Department. George Little, a spokesman for Panetta, wrote in an email that he had no comment.
Hunters remarks came four days after Obama announced that former Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha would receive the Medal of Honor for valorous actions during a clash in eastern Afghanistan that occurred three weeks after the battle for which Swenson was nominated. Romesha, of Minot, N.D., is only the fourth living recipient of the award from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Obama awarded then-Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer the Medal of Honor in September 2011 for heroism in the same battle for which Swenson was nominated.
Swenson, 33, of Seattle, declined to comment for this article. The first living Army officer nominated for the Medal of Honor in four decades, he resigned from the service in February 2011.
He was nominated for gallantry in the Sept. 8, 2009, battle of the Ganjgal Valley, one of the most extraordinary military confrontations of the post-9/11 wars, a six-hour clash that erupted when some 50 to 60 Taliban-led insurgents ambushed a contingent of Afghan troops and border police and U.S. trainers.
Five American and nine Afghan service personnel and an Afghan translator died; 24 Afghans and four Americans, including Swenson and Meyer, were wounded. In addition to the two Medal of Honor nominations, participants received a slew of other commendations. Moreover, two Army officers received reprimands for dereliction of duty for spurning calls by Swenson and others for artillery and air support.