WASHINGTON — An Army investigation has found that a retired three-star general turned Pentagon adviser mocked first lady Jill Biden in support of abortion According to the USA TODAY report, the company did not violate any legal or ethical rules.
But the report, released under a Freedom of Information Act request, concludesed that retired Lt. Gen. Gary Volesky deviated from the social media guidelines he established when he commanded public affairs for the Army. His actions, the report said, drew “negative media attention” to the military.
The controversy highlights the dangers posed by public officials using social media to express personal opinions and what the government may be able to do to restrict such expression.
The problem occurred in June 2022, after the first lady tweeted her criticism of the Supreme Court’s decision that struck down the constitutional right to abortion. “For almost 50 years,” Biden wrote, ”Women had the right to make our own decisions about our bodies. Today that right has been stolen.”
“Glad to see what you know about what a woman is.”
Volesky – a former top Army spokesman and recipient of the Silver Star for valor in Iraq – responded in a tweet from his personal account: “Glad to see you finally know what a woman is.” His response seemed to echo conservative complaints about to reflect the definition of gender in the context of transgender rights.
He later deleted the tweet and was suspended from his job after USA TODAY reported on the matter.
The Army launched its investigation into Volesky’s use of social media after USA TODAY reported on the issue. Although Volesky was retired from the military, he was hired by the federal government to advise the army.
In June 2022, three days before Volesky posted his tweet, Volesky had told the Army that he did not intend to renew his $92-an-hour consulting contract, which was set to expire in September, the report said.
“I’ve already resigned, I don’t know why this would be a big deal”
When the investigator asked Volesky about his tweet, he admitted he posted it and stated, “I already resigned, I don’t know why this would be a big deal.”
A spokesman for Biden declined to comment on the tweets last year.
Civil-military relations experts call Volesky’s response an inappropriate foray into politics for a retired senior officer and paid Pentagon adviser.
Volesky had a high-profile Army career before retiring in 2020.
Hired to instill “enlightened thinking” in the military
He had been hired through a Pentagon program for retired military personnel as an expert with the experience and skills to provide “enlightened thinking” to the military, according to the Pentagon’s description of the program. The Army paid $50,046 for his work from November 2020 to August 2021 and $18,952 from September 2021 to June 2022.
The original senior mentor program all but disappeared after a USA TODAY investigation in 2009 found that retired officers were paid up to $330 an hour for military service advice. Most of the mentors also worked for defense companies that wanted to sell products to the Pentagon.
Because the retired officials were hired as contractors, few ethics rules applied. In some cases, mentors were paid by the military to conduct war games using weapons systems from their consulting clients. The Pentagon and Congress intervened, requiring the mentors to be hired as government employees, subject to salary caps and submitting public financial disclosure forms.
Volesky’s tweet and another tweet in which he criticized former Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican critic of former President Donald Trump, were later deleted. Volesky had called the Jan. 6 special committee investigating the Capitol insurrection “partisan politics.”
In late June 2022, after USA TODAY published its tweet about Biden, Army Lt. Gen. Theodore Martin, commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, suspended Volesky “from all current and future duties/assignments,” the report said.
The report also noted that federal rules governing social media use are permissible if the employee uses a personal account and the social media post does not relate to his or her government position and is not written while on the job.
Reference is also made to the “Army Social Media Guide”, which was published in 2013 and signed by the then Brigadier General. General Volesky.
“If you hold a leadership position, online behavior should be professional. By using social media, you are essentially creating a permanent record of what you say. If you wouldn’t say it in front of a group, don’t say it online.” Another part of the guidance cited in the report reminds Army members: “Think, type and post:
“Think about what message is being communicated and who might see it,” the instructions say. “Provide communications consistent with Army values.” “Only ‘publish’ messages that demonstrate dignity and respect for yourself and others.”
The report concluded that Volesky’s response to Biden was within his “personal abilities.”
It was recommended that when training senior mentors, highlight the potential impact of social media on their organization. It also called for no further action against Volesky and “that he be advised that the matter is closed.”
Volesky declined a request for comment.
More about the social media rules:Biden wins provisional Supreme Court victory in social media case, but Justice Alito warns of ‘censorship’
Source : www.usatoday.com