At National Guard Confirmation Hearing, The Political Becomes Personal

One of Sean Parnell’s final acts as governor was to remove the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard. The cause was a federal investigation documenting problems with fraud and the handling of sexual assault. Now, a new adjutant general is tasked with restoring trust in the force. At a pair of confirmation hearings on Tuesday, Laurie Hummel was asked about her plans for reforming the Guard, and went through a personal line of questioning along the way. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.

During her first confirmation hearings before the Legislature, Adjutant General Designee Laurie Hummel was asked a lot of the standards, like what leadership is (“People believe in your abilities, they believe in your principles, and they want to follow you”) and what’s the timeline for National Guard reform (“I don’t believe it will be completed this session”).

She was asked about terrorism and drones, her tenure at West Point and her academic background in geography. She walked the committees through her 12-page C.V., which lists four graduate degrees and 17 military medals and awards — including a Legion of Merit. She talked about her service in Afghanistan and work with NATO.

But in addition to her resume and her policy positions, Hummel was also questioned on her personal life. Hummel’s military background comes from her 30-year career in the Army. But her husband, Col. Chad Parker, commanded a brigade in the Alaska National Guard until recently.

In the House State Affairs Committee, Chair Bob Lynn wanted to know if her spouse would continue to serve in the Alaska National Guard alongside her. Hummel responded that her husband was taking a job with the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.

HUMMEL: He is not within the employment of the DMVA, and of course, that is necessitated in order to comply with our nepotism statutes.
LYNN: So he will still be in the National Guard, but not in the chain of command here, so he is not retiring from the National Guard.
HUMMEL: That is correct, sir.

During his time in the National Guard, Parker handled some of investigations into wrongdoing. Lynn, an Anchorage Republican, also wanted to know if Parker had ever talked to Hummel about difficulties the National Guard had in addressing sexual assault.

LYNN: Your husband didn’t tell you about it?
HUMMEL: No, actually, my husband — it wasn’t really discussed at home.

Hummel said she learned about the problems by reading the news.

At a separate hearing before the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, questioning took a different tack. Hummel was prodded on whether the state should adopt a Uniform Code of Military Justice to create more accountability in the Guard, and she was repeatedly asked if such a code should penalize extramarital affairs.

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux made the first inquiry. The Anchorage Republican has a history with Hummel, having beat off an election challenge from Hummel last year.

“If someone were having an extramarital affair, or something of that nature, that would be adjudicated under the military, as opposed to our civil laws?” asked LeDoux.

Rep. Shelley Hughes, a Palmer Republican, then continued down that line of questioning on extramarital affairs.

“[I] was curious as to your thoughts as far whether any of that might be unreasonable, and whether under your leadership you would think that wouldn’t it be better for it not to be in the code because you wouldn’t see enforcing it,” said Hughes during the hearing.

Hummel responded that she believes the Uniform Code of Military Justice is a “sound document.”

After the hearing, Hughes said there was no specific motivation behind her questions. But she also said she wondered if Hummel’s personal experiences would prompt her to “change some of the standards.” Hughes said she knew that Hummel had previously been married to Eric Feige, a former state legislator, before getting remarried.

“Whether through someone went through that would enforce it, yes, there is a curiosity about that,” said Hughes, referring to enforcement of provisions in the military code.

Hughes said she learned of Hummel’s marital history during campaign season, but would not elaborate on what exactly she meant when talking of the adjutant general designee’s “personal experiences.”

“I was out in Palmer. I wasn’t hanging out in Anchorage, so I never went into any of the activities or debates or anything like that,” said Hughes. “So, I was busy.”

Hughes said she was satisfied by Hummel’s answers to her questions. Both she and LeDoux plan to support Hummel’s confirmation.

Hummel said she did not have time for questions after the hearing.