Gen. Mark Welsh III takes over as the Air Force's reputation with Congress is at a low point, a situation he vows to improve. Here, Welsh testifies before Congress last month. (Thomas Brown / Staff)
A Texas lawmaker has removed his hold on Gen. Mark A. Welsh III’s nomination as Air Force Chief of Staff, clearing the way for the full Senate to vote on the nomination.
The announcement came after Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, met with Welsh on Thursday morning.
Cornyn had vowed to block Welsh’s nomination until he was satisfied the Air Force had adequately addressed the sex assault scandal at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, which currently involves 15 military training instructors and 38 alleged victims.
“After today it’s clear Gen. Welsh shares my grave concerns over the situation at Lackland. Gen. Welsh demonstrated a genuine resolve to improving Air Force-wide policies to prevent a recurrence of the grossly unacceptable conduct that took place at Lackland,” Cornyn said in a statement on Thursday. “Gen. Welsh demonstrated a genuine resolve to improving Air Force-wide policies to prevent a recurrence of the grossly unacceptable conduct that took place at Lackland.”
According to Cornyn’s statement, he asked Welsh to direct a review of three things related to the sex assault scandal:
Current Air Force policy and training on sexual assault prevention.
Fraternization and inappropriate relationships, including social networking among airmen.
The organizational structure of Basic Military Training units at Lackland — focusing on the ratio of officers to trainees.
Cornyn’s hold was the latest test of the Air Force’s relationship with Congress, whose members have been angered over proposed cuts to Guard and Reserve units. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, had blocked all senior Air Force nominations in the spring until the Air Force agreed to postpone the transfer of a fighter squadron within his state.
At his confirmation hearing, Welsh vowed to restore trust with Congress.
“I think what matters the most today is how we move forward from here because we are in a place that we cannot stay,” Welsh said. “However we move forward, it has to be together.”
Congress is slated to go on recess at the end of the week and will not return until September 10. If the Senate does not vote on Welsh’s nomination before then, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer would become acting chief of staff when Gen. Norton Schwartz retires on Aug. 10.