Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi is coming to the defense of a Puerto Rico National Guard officer whose entry to the prestigious Inter-American Defense College in Washington, D.C. he was claims was unjustifiably blocked by Col. Juan Medina, the adjutant general of the PRNG.
Pierluisi said the lieutenant colonel, who didn’t name, was accepted to attend college at Ft. McNair through the National Guard Bureau’s senior developmental education program. The acceptance came prior to Medina’s March 18 confirmation as adjutant general, a political post that is filled by the Puerto Rico governor with the consent of the island Senate.
“This is a prestigious and highly-competitive program, reserved for the most promising military officers,” Pierluisi said.
The lieutenant colonel was recommended for admission to the program by the previous adjutant general of the PRNG, and a selection board that convened in Washington in December 2012 chose the officer — from among many candidates from around the nation — to fill the one slot that was available at the Inter-American Defense College.
The lieutenant colonel accepted the offer of admission immediately and he and his wife, who is pregnant, made plans to move to Washington so he could attend the program starting this summer. The officer has served multiple tours overseas. He has earned numerous commendations and the confidence of his commanders and colleagues.
“His record and his reputation are superb,” Pierluisi said. “I had the privilege to meet him and his wife, and I believe he represents the best of Puerto Rico. His acceptance in this program should be a source of pride for him personally, for the PRNG, and for our island.”
Pierluisi said Medina, a day after his own confirmation, contacted the National Guard Bureau in Washington, which oversees all 54 state and territory national guards, to state that he did not support the lieutenant colonel for this educational program, which resulted in the National Guard Bureau informing the lieutenant colonel that it would have no alternative but to rescind his acceptance and to offer his slot at the school to another officer.
“I am further advised that individuals within the National Guard Bureau explained to Col. Medina that such an action was highly unusual — indeed, unprecedented — and asked Col. Medina why he was taking this step, but that Col. Medina declined to provide a reason,” Pierluisi said. “I am even advised that a top general at the National Guard Bureau urged Col. Medina to carefully consider whether he wanted to take this action, but that Col. Medina refused to change course.”
Pierluisi said he had a productive meeting with Medina in early February, prior to this incident. He said both agreed that it would be inappropriate to make personnel changes, when it came to career-track positions, that could be interpreted as being motivated by political or personal reasons, because the PRNG, as a military institution, should be a meritocracy and apolitical to the greatest extent possible.
“Whether Col. Medina’s action in this case was taken for political or personal reasons, or a combination of both, there is no doubt that this action is a gross abuse of power and that it is wrong,” said Pierluisi.
The resident commissioner said such actions could cause damage to the PRNG’s reputation in the eyes of the National Guard Bureau, which could have serious repercussions for the PRNG when it comes to the assignment of missions and other responsibilities.
“Given the threat this action poses to the career of an outstanding young officer, and to the PRNG’s credibility in Washington, I cannot maintain silence,” he said.
Pierluisi said the National Guard Bureau has agreed to my request to refrain from filling the lieutenant colonel’s slot at the school until close of business Thursday.
“There is still a small window of time to reverse this decision,” he said.
Pierluisi said he took the matter public after not getting any response from the administration of Gov. Alejandro García Padilla.
“I urge the governor to direct Col. Medina to reverse his decision immediately and to prevent any other adverse action from being taken against the lieutenant colonel,” the resident commissioner said. “If this does not occur, I intend to take all further steps that I deem necessary and appropriate.”