One of the constitutional questions on the ballot Tuesday is whether or not South Carolina voters should continue to elect the head of the state’s National Guard.
Amendment 2 will ask voters if the governor should instead appoint the Adjutant General position, with the advice and consent of the state Senate. The proposed amendment would also add qualifications to the job description.
One of those who supports making the position appointed is the man who currently holds the Adjutant General’s post: Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston. Livingston said he believes the position should be picked by the governor because many voters do not know even understand the position.
“When I ran last time, I would ask the question, ‘How many people know what the adjutant general does?’” he told reporters last month. “And probably 70 percent of the people didn’t know. And they were going to go vote.”
The idea has overwhelming bipartisan support, with the chairman of the state Democratic and Republican parties endorsing it. It also has the support of Gov. Nikki Haley. “This is something that will move our state forward. We are the last state in the country left that still elects the adjutant general,” she said last week.
But some retired National Guard lawmakers are questioning why the change is even being made, noting that South Carolina is considered to have a highly-respected Guard under the current system.
“The old adage ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,’ applies here,” Former State Sen. Phil Leventis told South Carolina Radio Network . “We’ve always had excellent adjutants general. And our National Guard and Air National Guard have been among the best in the nation.” Leventis is a retired Sumter Democrat who served as a fighter pilot in the Guard, eventually being promoted to brigadier general until his retirement in 1999.
He also doubted that making the position appointed would take the politics out of it. “That’s naïve,” he said. “When the governor appoints the adjutant general, the politics will be intense but they won’t be available for public scrutiny.”
However, State Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, a National Guard major who sponsored the original legislation, said South Carolina has been lucky so far. “We’ve dodged a bullet,” Smith said. “We’ve had some candidates who would have been a disaster. An absolute morale killer.”
The proposed amendment also adds qualifications to the job (which do not currently exist). The language states a nominee must be a major general with active Guard status and at least 10 years’ experience in the Guard or five years in the Guard as a lieutenant colonel or higher rank. The officer must also be a graduate of the Army War College, Air War College, or other military institution equivalent and have command experience at least the battalion or squadron level.
Livingston is running unopposed in the general election this fall. If the amendment is approved by voters, the change still would not take effect until his second term ends in 2019. Besides overseeing the National Guard, the Adjutant General’s Office also includes the South Carolina Emergency Management Division and the SC State Guard reserves.