Request independent Congressional investigation of February 2014 TEDD program adoptions

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On Sunday, February 14, the New York Post published an article entitled “Lost Dogs of War”, addressing the blatant failure of the US Army to reunite handlers with Military Working Dogs (MWD) from the Tactical Explosive Detector Dog (TEDD) program. This directly violated both Congress’ wishes (10 USC §2583) and the Department of Defense (DoD) policy: “Title 10 US Code 2583 gives priority first to civilian Law Enforcement Agencies, then to prior handlers....”…/document/AFD-120611-035.pdf

The American Public expects our military to respect their commitment to these handlers and to us. These dogs deserve to be more than favors handed out to friends and family. Based on the law, handlers should have had the first chance to adopt their dog when released from working service; that legal requirement was ignored. In a manner of speaking, I see this promise as a term and condition of their employment, made by our Representatives in honor of these soldiers’ bravery and dedication to service. However, we now know that Richard A. Vargus, OPMG MWD Program Manager (GS-14 and retired LTC), and Robert G. Squires, TEDD Program Coordinator (contractor), not only did not notify handlers of the adoption event, but handed out dogs to friends, family, and business associates. To the best of my knowledge, I have heard of not one dog, not adopted by a law enforcement agency, which went to someone not tied in some way to Vargus or Squires.

Squires told the local paper that his technique to rid himself of dogs was to contact his sister-in-law, whose friends took almost two dozen of the dogs, with many of these adopters refusing to speak to the handlers or, even, to report on their dog’s health. None of these local adopters had an official home-check or verification of their ability to care for the MWD’s; all that was required was a five-dollar bill to pay the notary. The contractor, Davis-Paige Management Systems LLC, received over $7 million under Contract W911SR10D0021 for the well-being of the dogs, but no one considered that these war-heroes, many of whom have Canine PTSD, deserved to be retired with the handler who understands them best. Each of the TEDD dogs is estimated to have saved between 150 and 200 lives; this is not the way to treat our heroes, even if they do have four legs.

The Army claims to have conducted a “self-investigation,” but based on the continued claims of innocence two years after the event, how can anyone believe justice will be their goal? Also, it is my understanding, various members of the military have claimed the pups are “Contract Working Dogs,” not under DoD purview, which is false. OPMG conducted the adoption; these dogs were, unequivocally, MWD’s. Plus, the military, in some cases, asserts the victims, the handlers, are the problem because the Army could not locate a previously submitted “adoption packet.” Of course, they do not reveal that, according to many of the handlers, the “packet” was not available to many of them, nor were there any clear instructions addressing where and who should receive the packet, if any did ferret one out. Neither Congress nor the DoD policy predicates priority of handlers on an “adoption packet.” Additionally, this argument is without merit, because those who did submit “packets” were also ignored. Just as all Squires’ friends and family were able to complete adoption forms on the day of the adoption, handlers should have also been afforded that courtesy. Even more egregious is that if Leo Gonnering (a retired Major, former MP), who was working at the Pentagon for his contractor employer the day of the public adoption (per Gonnering's official email), adopted a dog without even being required to attend, and as stated in the NY Post article, Squires provided special benefits and favors to Gonnering.

My request is that Congress conduct an independent investigation of this event and work to make this right for the TEDD program handlers. I would suggest that you initiate that review, questioning the legal authority of Squires to sign as the “Agent/Representative of the US Government.” His apparent breach of duty and conflict of interest as a DoD contractor to us, the American Public, his contracting firm’s employer, should be the first focus of attention, in my opinion.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. 

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