Another nuke-missile commander dismissed

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WASHINGTON -- The Air Force fired a general in charge of all land-based nuclear missiles on Friday, the second time in a week that a senior commander of the nation's nuclear arsenal has been let go for allegations of personal misconduct.

Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, commander of the 20th Air Force, was removed from his job "due to a loss of trust and confidence in his leadership and judgment," said Brig. Gen. Les Kodlick, an Air Force spokesman.

Air Force officials said Gen. Carey has been under investigation since this summer for allegations of "personal misbehavior," but would not specify what prompted his firing.

Pressed by reporters at a Pentagon news conference, Gen. Kodlick said the case did not involve drugs, sexual misconduct, gambling or any form of criminal activity, but he declined to comment when asked if alcohol played a role. He said he could not give further details because the investigation was still underway. "We wanted to make it very clear it wasn't operations-related," he said.

Gen. Carey's firing comes two days after the Navy announced that it had fired a three-star admiral serving as deputy commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees all nuclear-armed missiles, bombers and submarines. In that case, Vice Adm. Tim Giardina remains under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service after he was allegedly caught using $1,500 in counterfeit gambling chips by a casino in Iowa. The casino is near Strategic Command headquarters in Omaha, Neb.

The U.S. military has seen a rash of generals and admirals lose their jobs over the past year for alleged personal misconduct. But the firings of Gen. Carey and Vice Adm. Giardina were unusual, given their responsibility for nuclear weapons.

The 20th Air Force is responsible for operating intercontinental ballistic missiles. Overall, the Air Force maintains about 450 Minuteman IIIs missiles at three bases in North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.

The Air Force said Gen. Carey's alleged misconduct occurred during a temporary duty assignment away from the 20th Air Force headquarters in Cheyenne, Wyo., although officials declined to say where it happened, or when.

The decision to relieve Gen. Carey of command was made by Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, head of the Air Force Global Strike Command, after he received an interim report from the Air Force's inspector general, officials said.

Air Force officials said Gen. Carey's actions had not compromised the security or effectiveness of their nuclear arsenal. The 20th Air Force "continues to execute its mission of around-the-clock nuclear deterrence in a safe, secure and effective manner," Gen. Kowalski said.

The Air Force has been dogged by concerns about its management of nuclear forces.

In August, the Air Force relieved a colonel in charge of a nuclear-weapons unit at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, citing a "loss of confidence" in his leadership. In June, a commander in charge of training missile crews at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota was fired after an unusually large number of launch operators performed poorly on tests.

In 2008, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired the Air Force's top general and civilian leader after a series of nuclear gaffes on their watch, including an incident in which a B-52 crew flew across the country without realizing six cruise missiles on board had been loaded with nuclear warheads.


First Published October 11, 2013 8:00 PM


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