You may not know it, but the power to pick the head of our state’s National Guard is in your hands if you’re a voter.
Each four-year election cycle, voters elect our adjutant general – the de facto commander of our state’s military forces. South Carolina is the only state to have such an antiquated system, and strangely enough, no military experience is required to be the commander. Thankfully, legislators are moving to change that.
One of the less eye-catching, yet important steps the legislature is considering as the session comes to a close is making the adjutant general office an appointed position.
The state senate gave approval to a bill on Tuesday that would allow voters to change South Carolina’s Constitution and let the governor pick the office holder with subsequent approval by the Senate.
This is a smart move, and one hopefully that the S.C. House will concur with and pass along to S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk for signature. As the only state where the position is elected rather than appointed, we’re clearly behind the mark.
The Senate’s vote is a sign of progress, and one that should be embraced by voters. Not only is the door open to elect someone unqualified, it also takes time away from the office holder’s efforts to oversee our National Guard. Instead of focusing on training the force and protecting our state, time is diverted toward raising campaign cash and courting votes. It shouldn’t be that way.
Current Adjutant General Bob Livingston is facing a primary challenge this year from former National Guardsman William Breazeale, who is only a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves.
Leapfrogging from that spot to the position of head of the state’s National Guard is a promotion that really only the voters could make. Even if voters did that, Breazeale would not be considered a general by the Pentagon – only by the people of South Carolina. There is a clear danger in that scenario.
Our state should implement definitive standards for those interested in running our state’s military agency. Despite legislative efforts, that’s not the case right now.
Lawmakers should create those requirements and leave the selection of the adjutant general to the governor. It would be a sensible step for South Carolina that would bring us in line with the rest of the country.