Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, 3rd Air Force Commander

Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, 3rd Air Force Commander (Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)

Note: This story has been updated.

Third Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin will lose a star when he retires at the end of the month.

Franklin, whose decision last year to dismiss a sexual assault conviction led Congress to curb commander authority in the military justice system, and who announced his upcoming retirement on Wednesday, will be retired as a major general, officials said.

That’s because Franklin will have served only 22 months as a lieutenant general when he steps down from Third Air Force command at the end of the month. The law requires three years’ time-in-grade for military officers’ retirement purposes.

Franklin said in a statement that he was retiring “for the good of this command and the Air Force.”

His statement said that for nearly a year his judgment as a court-martial convening authority had been questioned publicly and repeatedly.

“The last thing I want in this command, is for people to feel they cannot bring a sexual assault case forward or feel it won’t be dealt with fairly,” his statement said. “In addition, public scrutiny will likely occur on every subsequent case I deal with.”

Three weeks ago, Stars and Stripes reported that top Air Force officials had moved a sexual assault case to be re-investigated after Franklin, in concert with his legal adviser, had decided against a court-martial.

But for nearly a year, Franklin has been a lightning rod in the debate over military sexual assault and how best to address it, ever since he, in February, dismissed a court-martial jury’s sexual assault conviction of then-Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, sprung the Aviano, Italy-based fighter pilot from jail and re-instated him into the Air Force.

The law governing general officer retirements — Title 10 U.S.C., Section 1370(a)(2)(A) — does allow for exceptions for the time-in-grade requirements.

“The Secretary of Defense may waive the three-year time-in-grade requirement in instances where the general officer concerned has at least two-years time-in-grade,” according to the Senior Leaders Handbook for General Officers.

Additionally, the president may waive the requirement for general officers with less than two years’ time-in-grade in “individual cases involving extreme hardship or exceptional or unusual circumstances cases,” the handbook says.

Franklin will not request a waiver, however, said Lt. Col. Paul Baldwin, a spokesman for U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

Franklin’s retirement as a major general must be approved by the Air Force secretary, according to Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley, an Air Force spokeswoman.

Note: This story was updated on Jan. 10, 2014, to explain that Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin would retire as a major general because he would have 22 months time-in-grade when he steps down as commander of Third Air Force at the end of the month. His actual retirement date has not been made public.

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now