WASHINGTON (AP) — The Air Force fired the general in charge of its nuclear missiles on Friday, just two days after a Navy admiral with top nuclear weapons responsibilities was sacked. Both men are caught up in investigations of alleged personal misconduct, adding to a cascade of turmoil inside the nation’s nuclear weapons force.
The Air Force removed Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, a 35-year veteran, from his command of 20th Air Force, responsible for all 450 of the service’s intercontinental ballistic missiles. Carey, who took his post in Wyoming in June 2012, will be reassigned pending the outcome of an investigation into personal misbehavior, the service said.
The Air Force would not specify what Carey is alleged to have done wrong, but two officials indicated that it was linked to alcohol use.
They said it was not related to the performance or combat readiness of ICBM units or to his stewardship of the force.
Removing senior officers in the nuclear force is rare but has happened twice this week.
On Wednesday the Navy said Vice Adm. Tim Giardina, the second-in-charge at U.S. Strategic Command, was fired amid an investigation of gambling issues. He was demoted from three- to two-star rank and reassigned to a Navy staff job until the investigation is completed.
Together, the firings add a new dimension to a set of serious problems facing the military’s nuclear force. The ICBM segment in particular has had several recent setbacks, including a failed safety and security inspection at a base in Montana in August, followed by the firing of the colonel there in charge of security forces. In May, The Associated Press revealed that 17 Minuteman 3 missile launch control officers at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., had been taken off duty in a reflection of what one officer there called “rot” inside the ICBM force.
In a March inspection, missile launch crews at Minot scored the equivalent of a “D’’ grade on missile operations. In June the Minot officer in charge of training and proficiency of missile crews was fired.
Throughout this period the Air Force and top Pentagon officials have insisted that the nuclear force is safe and secure. But the competence of its management has been questioned.
Documents obtained by the AP show that at lower levels the force is beset with morale problems and incidents of indiscipline.
The U.S. has been shrinking the size of its nuclear arsenal for many years; it is comprised of long-range missiles aboard submarines, long-range bombers and ICBMs. As of Oct. 1 the U.S. had 1,688 deployed strategic nuclear warheads, which Washington is obliged to reduce to 1,550 by 2018 under the New START treaty with Russia.