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Air Force, Army officers punished for nuclear lapse

September 26, 2008|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Air Force and Army have disciplined 17 senior officers, including the three-star general in charge of logistics, for poor oversight in connection with the mistaken shipment to Taiwan of fuses for nuclear warheads.

Saying he could not ignore the "breaches of trust that occurred on their watch," acting Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley laid out Thursday what in some cases were career-ending punishments for six Air Force generals, ranging in rank from one to three stars, and nine colonels. Two Army two-star generals have also been disciplined.

Speaking to reporters at a Pentagon news conference, Donley said he took into consideration the future needs of the Air Force when he asked two major generals in the group to stay on.

The Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who also was at the news conference, said the two officers had unique skills and knowledge crucial to the nuclear mission.

The Army, meanwhile, said it disciplined two brigadier generals who worked at the Defense Logistics Agency and were in charge of the military's 26 shipping centers.

Army spokesman Paul Boyce said that although neither officer was directly responsible for the shipping error, they had not fully corrected problems in the supply system that had been identified earlier.

All 17 officers received disciplinary letters, but they varied in seriousness from reprimands, which are the most severe, to letters of admonishment, memorandums of concern and letters of counsel, which are less serious.

The officers are mainly in logistical jobs and were involved to some degree in the mistaken shipment to Taiwan in 2006 of four electrical fuses for ballistic missile nuclear warheads. The error did not become known until March.

Both Donley and Schwartz got their jobs as a result of the incident.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sacked Air Force Chief of Staff T. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne, blaming them for failing to address a series of nuclear-related missteps, including the mistaken shipment.

Gates acted swiftly after Navy Adm. Kirkland H. Donald completed a sharply critical report on the shipping incident that found "a decline in the Air Force's nuclear mission focus and performance" and a failure by Air Force leaders to respond effectively.

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