Obama's Candidacy Inspired Bill Odom
Lt. Gen. William Odom died May 30. So did a piece of American military integrity.
He was President Reagan’s Chief of Army Intelligence. He elevated American Military Officership--in and out of uniform.
He was very brave. He was very principled. And he hated stupidity.
When we shared cocktails at the Army-Navy Club in early Spring, we agreed that should the Country be wise enough to elect a President Obama, we would jointly author an op-ed recommending the establishment of Three Star Judge Advocate Position in the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose principal responsibility would be to advise the Chairman, with the power and responsibility to communicate directly to the President and the Congress, on the Laws of War and the stake the American Military Person and Nation have in adherence to those Laws.
Four years ago I was asked to comment on the character and career achievement of Lt. Gen William Odom. This is what I said:
I will direct my comments to Gen. Odom’s unique contributions to the structural and organizational integrity of the Army.
I. The Accretion of Organizational Status of Intelligence within DOD
Secretary John O. Marsh, Jr. was perhaps our most knowledgeable Secretary of the Army on matters of intelligence. His priorities for the area included aggressive efforts to include Army Intelligence at the forefront of Staff decision-making, and to providing effective legal oversight to intelligence activities. As Army General Counsel and, later as ASA M&RA, I was responsible for the latter and intimately involved in the former.
The Service intelligence chiefs had historically been and at in 1981, at the inception of the Reagan Administration, two star positions. There was no consideration of any structural change to the Army Staff ranking structure until Gen Odom’s ascension to ACSI. Less than a year thereafter, the Secretary elevated the Army Chief of Intelligence to Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (DCSI) based upon his Intelligence organizational priorities, but also to my direct knowledge, upon the extraordinary stature of General Odom in and out of the intelligence community, and upon his strength of performance as ACSI. I am also cognizant of the fact that General Odom neither sought nor was aware of the elevation before its occurrence. General Odom’s elevation within the Army resulted in following elevations in the other services.
II. The Correction of Structural Deficiencies and Operational Improprieties
The Secretary’s judgment was regarding General Odom was soon validated
During General Odom’s tenure as ACSI/DCSI severe fiscal and operational problems(predating his tenure)were discovered regarding the use of Army staff assets and the effectiveness of the legal and congressional oversight concerning the their intelligence related activities. General Odom became the focal point and a source of credibility for constructing Secretariat and Army Staff solutions and, later, criminal prosecutions. While it is difficult to demonstrate in this correspondence, one could correctly surmise that the total absence of Army institutional culpability in Iran-Contra was a direct result of the corrective actions taken by the Army in the previous action with General Odom in a definitive role.
General Odom’s contribution to the Army and to Military intelligence has been unique and long lasting. Many of his organizational efforts have become the standard, and those of his initiatives which have been abandoned, including the effort to secure greater human intelligence assets with Arabic or Farsi language skills, have most unfortunately proved the wisdom of his advice and foresight of his thinking.