In December 2011, the National Defense University’s Deputy VP for Academic Affairs, Dr. Brenda Roth, officially confirmed in writing to the Pentagon that all course materials at the National Defense University were vetted and approved by the University and its military command. This official confirmation covered the content and outside guest speakers used in its course entitled Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism.
Nevertheless, four months later General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, disregarding Dr. Roth’s official report, publicly excoriated and fired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Matthew Dooley, an instructor involved with the course, on grounds that the course was offensive to Islam and unprofessional; he also ordered LTC Dooley’s career–ending negative Officer Evaluation Report.
In the newly revealed official communication written on December 2, 2011, Dr. Roth informed the Pentagon that “The curriculum is vetted through College-level curriculum committees or academic review committees which ensure students receive a senior-level professional education (vice training) in national security strategy.”
According to Dr. Roth,“The College Dean of Faculty and Academic Programs reviews and vets proposed speakers for their subject matter expertise and academic and teaching credibility. The Commandants [Generals] have the final review of recommended speakers and issues invitations to those he approves.”
Dr. Roth’s official report was written in response to a Pentagon inquiry about the vetting process and use of outside lecturers to avoid Muslim criticism of federal agencies that present an offensive view of Islam.
The course on Islamic Radicalism was first established in 2004. The external guest speakers used in the elective were all approved under the watch of Brigadier General Marvin Smoot, USAF, in 2009-2010, well before Dooley’s arrival. LTC Dooley began as an instructor of the Radical Islam course in 2011. He received the highest officer evaluations for his effectiveness as an instructor that included a recommendation that he be promoted and given a command as soon as possible.
Brigadier General Marvin Smoot, USAF, was the commandant of the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) when the various guest speakers “critical of Islam” were vetted. Moreover, in 2011 General Smoot gave LTC Dooley an outstanding Officer Evaluation Report for his performance as an instructor. General Smoot’s replacement as JFSC commandant, Major General Joseph Ward, also thought highly of LTC Dooley, but nonetheless followed orders and wrote a negative evaluation.
Two Republican Congressmen, Representatives Duncan Hunter of California and Thomas Rooney of Florida questioned the severity of Dooley’s punishment. Army Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti, responding on behalf of General Dempsey, still blamed LTC Dooley for poor judgment but admitted “that there were institutional failures in oversight and judgment.” Those institutional failures, therefore, must rest on the doorstep of the generals in charge of the institution, not on an instructor who received multiple accolades from his superiors for the great job he was doing.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, the public interest law firm representing LTC Dooley, commented, “Any fair-minded person would conclude that Matt Dooley was thrown under the bus to protect the generals who had institutional responsibilities over the course. I believe the Pentagon wanted to curry favor with the White House and the Muslim community, which demanded that all training materials offensive to Islam be purged and the trainers who use them punished. The fact remains that the course and guest lecturers for which LTC Dooley was publicly ridiculed and punished were all approved by senior leaders long before he ever became an instructor at the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC).”