Having been a military officer, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the type of behavior that led to the Air Force's troubling lack of professionalism over the last few years (and its dreadful reputation across the services) begins with the kind of senseless dumbassitudes displayed during this year's commencement ceremonies: You cannot divorce bad command decisions from bad decisions. The "what the hell" attitude that allows a graduating cadet/officer to treat the President of the United States like a frat buddy is the same kind of attitude that leads officers to lose six nuclear warheads for a few hours, or to think it's okay to sell out their office for financial gain.
The US air force's two most senior officers were sacked yesterday after repeated blunders in nuclear weapons handling, including the mistaken shipment of detonators to Taiwan and the bungled transport of six deadly cruise missiles by unsuspecting pilots.
The air force chief of staff, General Michael Moseley, and civilian secretary Michael Wynne were asked to resign by senior Pentagon officials in advance of a report that is expected to pass embarrassing judgment on the nuclear errors.
The resignations had been expected amid simmering tension between the defence secretary, Robert Gates, and air force leaders. Gates has blasted the air force as not fully committed to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, urging it to send more of the unmanned planes known as Predators into the war.
"Because people were stuck in old ways of doing business, it's been like pulling teeth," Gates said in a speech this spring to the air force academy.
Yet the deciding factor in the military shakeup appears to be two nuclear slip-ups by the air force, which Moseley and Wynne have led since 2005. The air force admitted in March to sending Taiwan nuclear fuses that it believed were helicopter batteries, a gaffe that one senior defence official called "disconcerting".
A bigger mistake came 10 months ago, when six nuclear missiles were flown from North Dakota to Louisiana without any of the air force officials on board knowing about their hazardous cargo. The incident was deemed so serious that President George Bush was immediately notified. The air force unit that flew the six missiles failed a safety inspection only last month, according to the Washington Post.
Moseley was also reprimanded by Pentagon auditors in April for pushing ethical boundaries in his friendship with two private contractors who won a $50m (£26m) contract in 2005 to produce flight shows for the air force.
The Pentagon inspector general found in April that the contract to promote the Thunderbirds aerial stunt team was tainted by improper influence and preferential treatment. No criminal conduct was found.
Moseley was not singled out for blame, but the investigation laid out a trail of communications from him and other air force leaders that eventually influenced the awarding of the contract. Included in that were friendly emails between Moseley and an executive in the company that won the bid.
"It is my sense that General Moseley's command authority has been compromised," Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat on the Senate armed services committee, said at the time.
Replacements for the two leaders were not immediately announced. Forcing out both the uniformed and civilian chiefs of a military service is a rare move, but Gates sacked the army secretary last year amid a scandal over the mistreatment of injured soldiers at the Walter Reed hospital in Washington.
Bush was aware of the resignations but "played no role" in the process, according to the White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.
Labels: poor leadership