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S.C. officials: Change how Guard chief selected

Feb. 19, 2013 - 07:23PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 - 07:23PM  |  
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COLUMBIA, S.C. The governor should appoint South Carolina's top military leader so the person is not forced to run a political campaign to win an election every four years, the House speaker and the current adjutant general said Tuesday in proposing the change.

Bobby Harrell, a Charleston Republican, said the proposal requires an amendment to the state's constitution. It must be approved by a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, and then approved by the voters in the next election.

South Carolina is the only state that elects its top military officer by popular vote. Vermont's adjutant general is elected by its state legislature. In most states, the position traditionally is appointed by the governor.

Adjutant Gen. Robert Livingston joined Harrell in the call for the change. He faced no opposition on the general election ballot in 2010 when he ran as a Republican.

Harrell's proposed legislation calls for the governor's choice to meet several requirements, such as holding a higher-level military rank and attending a graduate-level military educational institute. The term would last four years.

The adjutant general oversees the 11,000-member Military Department of South Carolina, which includes the Army National Guard, the Air National Guard, the State Guard and the state's Emergency Management Division

"This change in the selection process will go a long way towards removing the politics from our great military," Livingston said in the statement. "It will allow soldiers, airmen and families to concentrate on their service."

Harrell noted that Livingston had conducted a yearlong analysis of the matter before joining in the proposal.

"Putting our state's best interests ahead of political ambitions, General Livingston should be applauded for recommending such a responsible restructuring proposal to ensure we will continue to have capable military leaders serving in this position," Harrell said in his statement.

"In fact, most citizens are surprised to learn that candidates with absolutely no military experience are fully qualified to be elected our state's head military officer under the current system," Harrell said.

The new requirements require the governor's choice to be in an active National Guard status; be a graduate of either the Army War College or Air War College, or have a military education level equivalent to those advanced graduate-level military schools.

The individual must also have at least 10 or more years of federally commissioned service in the South Carolina National Guard, of which at least five years must have been spent at the rank of lieutenant colonel, or higher. The bill also requires the individual to have command experience at the battalion or squadron level, or higher.

Other proposals have been made to remove from elected office the state's comptroller general, state treasurer, secretary of state, agriculture commissioner, and superintendent of education. Only the proposal on the superintendent of education has gotten much backing.

Livingston succeeded Maj. Gen. Stanhope Spears, who served 16 years in the office and retired as the nation's longest-serving adjutant general.

Livingston joined the enlisted ranks of the South Carolina Army National Guard in 1978, and went on to infantry, airborne and officer candidate schools.

His last major command took 1,800 soldiers from the Newberry-based 218th Brigade Combat Team to Afghanistan in 2007 for a yearlong deployment.

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