Commander Violates Regs in Response to Mikey Weinstein
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein has claimed a “decisive MRFF win” now that 436 FSS commander LtCol Don Tasker sent an email addressing the “controversy” over the prior Operation Christmas Child announcement. Weinstein said the Air Force “ENDORSEMENT OF FUNDAMENTALIST CHARITY [was] REVOKED IN UNDER 26 HOURS”. The email, as distributed by Weinstein, says:
From: 436 FSS/CC
Sent: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 4:19 PM
To: 436 FSS Personnel Only
Subject: //ACTION/ROUTINE//Religious Endorsement
Recently an email regarding a volunteer opportunity was forwarded to the entire 436 Force Support Squadron. The invitation included in that email
also contained language supporting the Christian faith and encouraged participation in this event as an act of Christian faith. I want to be absolutely clear that the email in question was not sent at my direction and is not endorsed in any way by me or any level of command.
AFMAN 33-152 governs permissible uses of government email. Messages can be sent on behalf of base chartered private organizations (e.g. Top 3) and can be sent to notify personnel of events of common interest (e.g. off-base Veteran’s Day parade). However, such messages cannot violate the Joint Ethics Regulation, which prohibits the endorsement of non-Federal entity or event by a DoD employee in their official capacity. Such messages also cannot appear to provide command endorsement of a particular religion.
Moving forward, before using government email to announce non-Federal events, all FSS team members will coordinate any announcement through our First Sergeant.
I appreciate that many members of our unit volunteer their off-duty time in our community in many different ways, and I encourage you to continue doing so as you see fit. However, when government resources, such as email are involved, it is everyone’s responsibility to know what is and is not permissible according to law and regulation. If anyone is unclear about what is required, please contact me or the First Sergeant.
Thanks for all you do every day for all of the Team Dover Family.
Lt Col Tasker
Donald C. Tasker, III, Lt Col, USAF
Commander, 436th Force Support Squadron
Dover AFB, DE
“FSS…The Best Never Rest”
FSS Vision: Dover Family–Fit, Developed, Resilient
Objectively, it isn’t a victory for Weinstein. (This is not unlike the USAFA OCC “scandal,” which had a similar non-result.) It does not say the original email was wrong, nor does it offer an apology. Contrary to Weinstein’s claim, it “revokes” nothing — because there was no endorsement to begin with. In fact, under these “new” rules, the same message could still have been sent out.
However, because it was sent only as a result of Weinstein’s complaint, and because it borrowed some of his own language, it provides him enough “validation” that he’s able to claim a “win” in his battle against religious freedom in the military — even though nothing really changed.
It remains disappointing that the Air Force continues to respond to Weinstein — despite prior lessons learned — and in so doing appears to validate his complaints, even when that’s not the case. To wit, articles quoted Weinstein — not the Air Force — claiming the Air Force “denie[d]” and “disavow[ed]” the benign, normal email sent out by the unit secretary (which didn’t happen). Perception equals reality, and in this case, the US Air Force’s response to Weinstein generated the perception he won.
To be fair, though, only the wing commander responded to Weinstein, and to this point only once. (Military.com even complained that no commander responded to their requests for comment.) The rest of the emails have been forwarded to Weinstein by his allies in the unit, something, ironically enough, that isn’t technically permissible, either.
Contrary to Weinstein’s claims, sending out an email about Operation Christmas Child violates no regulation or Air Force policy. Contrary to Weinstein’s claim, LtCol Tasker’s email to his unit does not “revoke” anything, much less an “endorsement of [a] fundamentalist charity.”
As an aside, it is worth noting that LtCol Tasker’s email to his unit violated the same regulation he cited to them. From AFMAN 33-152:
6.4.2. Senders should include a signature block on all official electronic messaging sent from individual or organizational accounts…
220.127.116.11. Include “//SIGNED//” in upper case before the signature block to signify official Air Force information (e.g., instructions, directions, or policies).
18.104.22.168. Restrict the signature block to name, rank, service affiliation, duty title, organization name, phone numbers…, and social media contact information.
22.214.171.124. Do not add slogans, quotes, or other personalization to an official signature block.
Check out his signature block quoted above.