Scrutiny of Army dress uniform comes into view at inquiry hearing
WASHINGTON — In his opening remarks at the impeachment hearing Tuesday, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman casually mentioned the other part of Washington’s intense focus.
“The uniform I wear today is of the U.S. Army,” said Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council who raised alarms over whether President Donald Trump asked Ukraine for political help in exchange for military aid.
But Vindman and his dress uniform — adorned with a Purple Heart, Ranger Tab and Combat Infantry Badge — has become a cipher for the impeachment proceedings itself, where critics have suggested it’s to grandstand as a member of a respected profession, while others imply his bona fides are a shield for Democrats.
Active-duty service members routinely wear full dress uniforms to testify on Capitol Hill. But security experts say the scrutiny of
Vindman’s uniform has become another data point in the politicization of the space between civil society and the military.
The Army’s guidelines for appearance standards, Ark. 670-1, says all personnel “will wear an Army uniform when on duty, unless granted an exception by the commander to wear civilian clothes.”
“Most reactions to it imply a choice where there is not one. Commentators are projecting their own feelings without understanding military regulations, a pretty frequent occurrence in civil-military relations,” said Loren DeJonge Schulman, a former Obama defense official who advised national security adviser Susan E. Rice.
Trump mentioned Vindman in a Cabinet meeting during the hearing in an apparent swipe at his dress selection. “I never saw the man, I understand now he wears his uniform when he goes in,” Trump said.
Military officials assigned to the NSC typically wear formal civilian clothes on a council blended with many other agency representatives, said Steve Miska, a retired Army colonel who served on a rotation at the NSC in 2011.
However, wearing a dress uniform during testimony is “probably appropriate” for Vindman, he said. “That’s your dress attire expected for that level of formality.”
During the testimony, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, led an attack on Vindman’s choice of uniform, noting that he wears a suit, not a dress uniform, while at the White House. The uniform is a “great reminder of your service,” Stewart said, providing backhanded compliments while pressing Vindman on his request to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., to call him by his rank, rather than “Mr. Vindman.”
“Do you always insist on civilians calling you by your rank?” Stewart said.
“The attacks I’ve had in the press, (on) Twitter have kind of ... marginalized me as a military officer,” Vindman replied.