Defense Secretary Robert Gates forced out the top two leaders of the Air Force over what he called lax security and safety standards for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In ousting Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley, Gates cited two incidents: the cross-country flight of an Air Force bomber wrongly armed with nuclear weapons and the mistaken shipment of high-tech nuclear missile fuses to Taiwan. (Reuters)
What the commentators said
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “talked a lot about the need for good management,” said Max Boot in Commentary’s Contentions blog, but Gates actually “seems to be practicing it.” He has now fired an Army secretary, the head of Central Command, and these two Air Force leaders for “foul-ups on their watch.” If “his boss, President Bush,” had followed the same policy, there would have been fewer “screw-ups” in Iraq.
Firing Wynne and Moseley “was not about nukes or missiles,” said Noah Shachtman in Wired’s Danger Room blog, despite what Gates told reporters. The botched handling of nukes was bad, but it’s likely that was merely “the excuse he needed to can a pair of bureaucratic adversaries.” Gates and the Air Force brass have been “on the brink of open conflict for months” over spending and military priorities.
“The problems with the Air Force run too deep to be solved with firings like this,” said Robert Farley at the blog Lawyers, Guns and Money. The core issue is the lack of “a coherent 21st century mission”—the Air Force’s mishandling of nuclear weapons, its botched public relations efforts, and its questionable performance in Iraq and Afghanistan are just symptoms.
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