The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

April 25, 2014

AP sources: Work to free US soldier disorganized

(Continued)

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., wrote earlier this year to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, saying it was critical that efforts to free Bergdahl are not overcome by bureaucracy.

"Given the significance and necessity for centralized command and control, which I have been informed is little to nonexistent, I urge you to seriously consider the idea of directing an individual to organize, manage and coordinate activity that involves multiple elements of the federal government working toward Bergdahl's release," wrote Hunter, a Marine veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Days later, Hagel appointed Michael Lumpkin, assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, as the point person for the Bergdahl case at the Pentagon. Hunter viewed that as a good step but noted that Lumpkin only has jurisdiction over the Pentagon work, not the other agencies.

A month after Lumpkin's appointment, Hunter wrote President Barack Obama, asking him to make the Defense Department the lead on all efforts to get Bergdahl back "with the specific aim of achieving a faster resolution than can be provided by the Department of State." He also asked Obama to name one coordinator to oversee the entire Bergdahl effort.

The State Department is leading the most publicized approach to getting Bergdahl back — a plan to exchange him for five Taliban detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The department declined comment on Hunter's letters and referred questions to the White House.

"The reason Sgt. Bergdahl remains a captive is because he is being held by a terrorist organization, not because of a lack of effort or coordination by the U.S. government," said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

The defense official and military officer paint a different picture.

When Hagel's office and U.S. Central Command separately learned about the Bergdahl video in December, there was confusion about who should tell the family, the defense official said. The secretary's office ended up informing the family. That angered U.S. Central Command, which believed it had the responsibility to tell the Bergdahls. Neither was communicating with the other about the video notification, the defense official said.

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