Two members of Congress have commended the Air Force and USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh for reinstating the aeronautical orders of three instructor pilots at Laughlin AFB, Texas, who had been involved in a texting controversy known as “Miley-Gate.” The pilots came under investigation as the result of text messages found during the course of another investigation. The text messages, found on the pilots’ personal cell phones, referenced song lyrics and movie lines, including some about illegal drugs, according to a September letter from Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) to Welsh. Air Force officials “painfully misunderstood” the “obvious cultural references,” and despite no additional evidence of drug use, imposed non-judicial punishment on four people, Hunter and Kinzinger said. However, after an Inspector General inquiry and general officer review, the Air Force in December determined that the alleged misconduct “was not sufficiently substantiated by the evidence,” and reinstated the pilots’ aeronautical orders, according to an Air Education and Training Command release. Hunter and Kinzinger said in a joint statement that while they believe “the initial action taken against the pilots by the Air Force was unjust,” they were impressed with how quickly the case was corrected. However, they said they are still concerned “with the parts of the military justice system that seem to permit the unjustified seizure and misrepresentation of personal text messages—and we intend to address this issue.” (Read Hunter’s Nov. 23, 2015, letter to Welsh and Hunter and Kinzinger’s Sept. 15, 2015, letter to Welsh.)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.