The head of the National Guard Bureau promised lawmakers Thursday that recent reforms will prevent any major breach of classified military information in the future, even as his agency struggles to understand the full scope of the months-long leak by an Air National Guardsman uncovered earlier this year.
“I’m very confident this will never happen again,” Gen. Daniel Hokanson told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This one individual took an individual action and is not indicative of the entire system. We are looking at safeguards that we can put in place that would prevent any individual in the future from ever being able to do this.”
Hokanson’s vow was met with skepticism from lawmakers, who pointed out numerous concerning details that have come to light since the April arrest of Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira for the unauthorized release of classified defense information. They said if senior commanders aren’t held accountable for their mistakes, more leaks could occur in the future.
“This was not a deviation that came out of the blue,” said committee Vice Chairwoman Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. “In fact, [Teixeira] had been observed taking notes on classified intelligence materials. … It appears that this serious breach might have been prevented or stopped much sooner if the airman’s guard unit had taken greater action to restrict his access to classified information.”
Federal prosecutors have accused Teixeira, 21, of violating the Espionage Act by improperly accessing top-secret military documents using his security clearance as an information technology specialist, then posting excerpts to social media platforms.
The leaks — which involved details of U.S. intelligence assistance to Ukraine and sensitive information on other allies — caused an international uproar. Along with unanswered questions regarding Teixeira’s motivations, lawmakers have pressed military leaders for an explanation on why a low-level guardsman would have access to the top-secret information.
Hokanson noted that Air Force leaders have already initiated an inspector general investigation into those issues.
“That is just about complete and we look forward to the results soon,” he said. “Any and all recommendations they make will obviously be implemented immediately.”
In addition, Hokanson said his office “is looking very closely at the chain of command who was responsible” for overseeing Teixeira’s work. Several senior leaders have been temporarily removed from their commands, pending further review.
“If there was negligence on [commanders’] part, it will be addressed immediately,” Hokanson promised.
Court documents have indicated that the young airman was confronted multiple times for accessing systems outside the scope of his work, but no formal punishment or restrictions were put in place.
Committee members said they’ll push for more reforms after the military’s investigations conclude. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. and chairman of the committee’s defense panel, said the entire scandal puts the National Guard in a negative light and could jeopardize public faith in the force.
Teixeira could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty, but federal officials have indicated they may file additional charges against the guardsmen in coming months.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.