Carefully balancing the need to punish and demonstrate accountability and the need to preserve rare institutional knowledge about nuclear weapons, the Air Force has reprimanded or admonished six generals, including the deputy chief of staff for logistics, installations and mission support and the former commander of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center.
“The Air Force has no more solemn obligation than the security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear arsenal,” Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff told reporters Thursday afternoon. “Commanders are accountable for all aspects of their commands, as are general officers for their functional responsibilities.” The punishments were announced at the Pentagon by Schwartz and Acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley.
A report by Navy Adm. Kirkland H. Donald, director of naval nuclear propulsion, into the nuclear enterprise detailed a loss of oversight from senior Air Force leaders and lowered performance related to the nuclear mission. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had to intervene personally and ordered Donald’s review after sensitive nuclear parts were sent mistakenly to Taiwan. In a separate incident, a B-52 bomber had flown across the country carrying at least five armed nuclear cruise missiles.
The nuclear personnel review began as a result of Donald’s report. A panel led by Tom Moorman, former Air Force vice chief of staff, Marty Faga, former director of the National Reconnaissance Office, and Gen. Stephen Lorenz, commander of the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command, conducted the personnel reviews.
In addition to those announced Thursday, a source familiar with the issue said that a wider range of lower ranking officers and noncommissioned officers have been punished for their roles in the Taiwan incident, but the panel only dealt with colonels and above.
Only one general officer is leaving the Air Force as a result of the review launched in July after several nuclear mishaps. Lt. Gen. Kevin Sullivan, deputy chief of staff for logistics, installations and mission support, did as the former Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mike Moseley, did in the face of serious allegations of inaction and requested retirement.
Lt. Gen. Michael A. Hamel, former commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., was admonished, according to a source who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. He is retiring effective Oct. 1, according to the official Air Force web site. Hamel’s retirement was placed on hold while his case was considered and his punishment was recently downgraded from a more serious reprimand to admonition. Hamel was responsible for managing the research, design, development, acquisition and sustainment of space and missile systems, launch, command and control, and operational satellite systems.
Two Air Force major generals, Roger Burg and Kathleen Close, were issued admonitions “for not exercising effective command oversight,” according to the Air Force press release announcing the punishments. Burg, commander of the 20th Air Force, did not identify and correct problems with shipping sensitive components and in his role overseeing the ICBM nuclear force. But he will keep his command because the Donley and Schwartz believe he is “needed to restore effective stewardship of the ICBM force....”
Close, who also did not recognize “systemic weaknesses in supply chain management of sensitive components” and did not take “adequate action to correct previously identified materiel control and maintenance deficiencies” in her job as commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Center, will also remain in her job to “restore Air Force stewardship of the ICBM force,” the release said.
Two Air Force brigadier generals, Francis Bruno and Arthur Cameron, received letters of admonition. Bruno, director of logistics for Air Force materiel Command, had already asked to retire. Cameron received a “routine reassignment” at the end of his tour as commander of the 309th Maintenance Wing before the nuclear review began, according to the Air Force release. In addition to the generals, five colonels received letters of reprimand “for not exercising effective command oversight to detect and correct deficiencies in materiel control, engineering or maintenance activities associated with the ICBM force,” according to the Air Force press release. Two of them were removed from command. One of those is retiring from the service. The other three are remaining with the service.
Three colonels were admonished for “failing to exercise effective command oversight to detect and correct deficiencies in their units that continued after the Taiwan incident,” the Air Force release detailed. One colonel was removed from command; the other two will remain in their current positions. One colonel received a letter of counseling for failures not involved with the Taiwan incident. That colonel is retiring.
Two Army brigadier generals, Lynn Collyar and Michael Lally, were issued memoranda of concern for their actions while commanding the Defense Distribution Center. In a press release, the Army said neither officer was “directly responsible” for the mistaken shipment of nuclear fuses to Taiwan in 2006. The military was supposed to send helicopter batteries but mistakenly sent fuses used in the trigger mechanism for Minuteman missiles. “But there were systemic weaknesses in the supply chain process identified in previous audits that” the two officers did not fully correct, the release said. Both officers are in command jobs today and “the Army leadership has great confidence in both” generals, the release said.