WASHINGTON -- Over the objection of the Senate, President Bush has extended the service of the former Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Michael J. Dugan, who was dismissed in September for publicly discussing contingency plans for waging war against Iraq.
General Dugan, in articles published by the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, said the Joint Chiefs of Staff had decided that the only effective way to drive Iraq out of Kuwait was heavy bombing of Baghdad to "decapitate" the Iraqi leadership, making President Saddam Hussein, his family and senior commanders primary targets.
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney ousted the four-star general, the Air Force's senior-ranking officer, on Sept. 17. But last month, Mr. Bush sent a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee recommending that General Dugan be allowed to remain as a special assistant to Air Force Secretary Donald B. Rice until Jan. 1, when the salary for four-star generals increases to $101,200 from $78,200.
Since General Dugan's pension is based on 75 percent of his base salary, his pension would increase by more than $17,000 a year, to $75,900 from $58,644, if he retired next year instead of this year.
Before Congress recessed, the Senate approved Mr. Bush's nomination to retire General Dugan at the four-star level but opposed extending his active-duty service "primarily to enhance his level of retired pay."
But this week, the Pentagon said it would go ahead with plans to retire the general on New Year's Day.
The Senate has the power to confirm a top officer's final rank but not to set the date it takes effect.
"It would be a mistake and sets a bad precedent," said Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, the ranking Republican on the committee, also opposed the move.
General Dugan, 53, a Vietnam War combat pilot, is assessing pilot training requirements for the Air Force secretary. He has refused all interview requests since his dismissal.