Second top US nuclear missile commander fired over misconduct

General in charge of land-based nuclear missiles removed for 'misbehaviour'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 June, 2016, 12:45pm

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

Major General 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 Brigadier General Les Kodlick, an Air Force spokesman.

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

Pressed by reporters at a Pentagon news conference on Friday, Kodlick said the case did not involve drugs, sexual misconduct, gambling or any form of criminal activity. However, a defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the misbehaviour was "alcohol-related".

"We wanted to make it very clear it wasn't operations-related," Kodlick said.

Carey's firing comes two days after the navy announced it had fired a three-star admiral serving as the deputy commander of the US Strategic Command, which oversees all nuclear-armed missiles, bombers and submarines.

In that case, Vice Admiral Tim Giardina remains under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service after he was allegedly caught using US$1,500 in counterfeit gambling chips by a casino in the state of Iowa. The casino is near Strategic Command headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska.

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 the states of North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.

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

Air force officials said Carey's actions had not compromised the security or effectiveness of their nuclear arsenal.

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-Defence Secretary Robert Gates fired the air force's top general and civilian leader after a series of nuclear gaffes occurred, including an incident in which a B-52 bomber crew flew across the country loaded with nuclear warheads.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse