fb-pixel Skip to main content

Air Force fires general in charge of land missiles

He is 2nd nuclear commander relieved in week

Carey was removed “due to a loss of trust.”

WASHINGTON — The Air Force fired a general in charge of all land-based nuclear missiles on Friday, the second time in a week that a senior commander of the country’s nuclear arsenal has been let go for allegations of personal misconduct.

Major General Michael Carey, commander of the 20th Air Force, was removed from his job ‘‘due to a loss of trust and confidence in his leadership and judgment,’’ said Brigadier General Les Kodlick, an Air Force spokesman.

Air Force officials said Carey has been under investigation since this summer for allegations of ‘‘personal misbehavior’’ but would not specify what prompted his firing.


Pressed by reporters at a Pentagon news conference, Kodlick said the case did not involve drugs, sexual misconduct, gambling, or any form of criminal activity, but he declined to comment when asked if alcohol played a role. He said he could not give further details because the investigation was still underway.

‘‘We wanted to make it very clear it wasn’t operations-related,’’ Kodlick said.

Carey’s firing comes two days after the Navy announced it had fired a three-star admiral serving as the deputy commander of the US Strategic Command, which oversees all nuclear-armed missiles, bombers, and submarines.

In that case, Vice Admiral Tim Giardina remains under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service after he was allegedly caught using $1,500 in counterfeit gambling chips by a casino in Iowa. The casino is near Strategic Command headquarters in Omaha.

The US military has seen a rash of generals and admirals lose their jobs over the past year for alleged personal misconduct. But the firings of Carey and Giardina were especially unusual, given their responsibility for nuclear weapons.

The 20th Air Force is responsible for operating intercontinental ballistic missiles. Overall, the Air Force maintains about 450 Minuteman III missiles at three bases in North Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.


The Air Force said Carey’s alleged misconduct occurred during a temporary duty assignment away from the 20th Air Force headquarters in Cheyenne, Wyo., although officials declined to say where it happened, or when.

The decision to relieve Carey of command was made by Lieutenant General James Kowalski, the head of the Air Force Global Strike Command, after he received an interim report from the Air Force’s inspector general, officials said.

Air Force officials said Carey’s actions had not compromised the security or effectiveness of their nuclear arsenal. The 20th Air Force ‘‘continues to execute its mission of around-the-clock nuclear deterrence in a safe, secure, and effective manner,’’ Kowalski said.

The Air Force, however, has been dogged by persistent concerns about its management of nuclear forces.

In August, the Air Force relieved a colonel in charge of a nuclear-weapons unit at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, citing a ‘‘loss of confidence’’ in his leadership. In June, a commander in charge of training missile crews at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota was fired after an unusually large number of launch operators performed poorly on tests.

In 2008, Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired the Air Force’s top general and civilian leader after a series of nuclear gaffes occurred on their watch, including an incident in which a B-52 bomber crew flew across the country without realizing that six cruise missiles on board had been loaded with nuclear warheads.