Video: Top Air Force officials ousted

updated 6/6/2008 1:49:56 PM ET 2008-06-06T17:49:56

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is likely to recommend to President Bush that he nominate a former Air Force executive, Michael B. Donley, to the service’s top civilian post, a senior defense official said Friday.

Donley, who was acting secretary of the Air Force for seven months in 1993 and served as the service’s top financial officer from 1989 to 1993, would replace Michael Wynne, who was fired by Gates on Thursday along with the Air Force’s top uniformed officer, Gen. Michael Moseley.

The senior defense official spoke on condition of anonymity because Gates has not yet made a formal recommendation to Bush.

Donley currently is the Pentagon’s director of administration and management.

He has held a variety of strategy and policy positions in government, including a stint on the National Security Council from 1984 to 1989. Before that he was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee staff. He served in the Army from 1972 to 1975. He earned bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Southern California.

Standards, performance in question
Gates announced on Thursday that he was replacing the Air Force’s top leadership, saying a shakeup was required to ensure that the service improve its standards and performance in safeguarding its nuclear weapons and the sensitive components associated with the strategic arsenal.

Gates said his decision was based mainly on the damning conclusions of an internal report that detailed the mistaken shipment to Taiwan of four Air Force electrical fuses for ballistic missile warheads. And he linked the underlying causes of that slip-up to another startling incident: the flight last August of a B-52 bomber that was mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

The report drew the stunning conclusion that a long decline in the Air Force’s nuclear standards has been a known shortcoming but has not been effectively addressed for over a decade.

Gates said an internal investigation found a common theme in the B-52 and Taiwan incidents: “a decline in the Air Force’s nuclear mission focus and performance” and a failure by Air Force leaders to respond effectively.

To reinforce his message that the Air Force must apply more rigor to its responsibilities with nuclear weapons, Gates plans to visit three Air Force bases next week, according to his press secretary, Geoff Morrell.

'No room for error'
Morrell said Gates is scheduled to visit Langley Air Force Base, Va., which is headquarters for Air Combat Command, as well as Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., which is headquarters for Air Force Space Command, and Scott Air Force Base, Ill., headquarters for Air Mobility Command.

Morrell said Gates intends to stress to airmen and commanders at each stop that “there is no room for error” in the business of safeguarding and properly managing the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

“The Air Force and the entire military has to do a much better job in that area,” Morrell said.

Gates also wants to convey his support for the Air Force’s efforts in the war on terror, the spokesman said. “They shouldn’t confuse issues he’s had with their leadership with a lack of support for their effort in the war,” he said.

The defense chief also intends to reiterate another major concern: that the defense establishment not focus so heavily on potential future conflicts and instead put the main effort into winning the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Morrell said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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