The No 2 officer at the military command in charge of all US nuclear war-fighting forces is suspected in a case involving counterfeit gambling chips at an Iowa casino and has been suspended from his duties, officials said.
Navy Vice Admiral Tim Giardina has not been arrested or charged, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) special agent David Dales said. The state investigation is ongoing.
Giardina, deputy commander at US Strategic Command, was suspended on September 3 and is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, a Strategic Command spokeswoman said.
The highly unusual action against a high-ranking officer at Strategic Command was made more than three weeks ago but not publicly announced at that time. The command is located at Offutt air force base near Omaha, Nebraska.
Air Force General Robert Kehler, who heads Strategic Command, suspended Giardina, who is still assigned to the command but is prohibited from performing duties related to nuclear weapons and other issues requiring a security clearance.
Kehler has recommended to Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel that Giardina be reassigned, Kunze said. Giardina has been the deputy commander of Strategic Command since December 2011. He is a career submarine officer and prior to starting his assignment there was the deputy commander and chief of staff at the US Pacific Fleet.
DCI agents stationed at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, discovered the counterfeit chips, Dales said. He would not say when the discovery was made or how much in counterfeit chips was found, only that "it was a significant monetary amount."
"We were able to detect this one pretty quickly and jump on it," Dales said. He declined to give specifics on how authorities determined that casino chips had been counterfeited or how Giardina might have been involved.
The suspension is yet another blow to the military's nuclear establishment. Last spring the nuclear missile unit at Minot air force base in North Dakota pulled 17 launch control officers off duty after a problematic inspection and later relieved of duty the officer in charge of training and proficiency. In August a nuclear missile unit at Malmstrom air force base in Montana failed a nuclear safety and security inspection.