Friday, December 20, 2013

Fired Nuke Commander went on drinking binge/misconduct while in Russia

WASHINGTON - The Air Force general who was fired from command of U.S. land-based nuclear missile forces had engaged in "inappropriate behaviour" while on official business in Russia last summer, including heavy drinking, rudeness to his hosts and associating with "suspect" women, according to an investigation report released Thursday.

The events that led to the dismissal took place while Maj. Gen. Michael Carey was in Russia in July as head of a U.S. government delegation to a nuclear security training exercise. At the time, he was commander of the 20th Air Force, responsible for all 450 of the Air Force's Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles stationed in five U.S. states.

When Carey was relieved of command in October, the Air Force said he had engaged in unspecified misbehaviour while on a business trip, but it did not say the episode was in Russia, nor did it indicate the specific allegations against him.

Carey's firing was one of several setbacks for the nuclear force this year. The Associated Press has documented serious security lapses and complaints of low morale and "rot" within the force, as well as an independent assessment of "burnout" among a sampling of nuclear missile launch officers and security forces.

After the Russia trip, a member of the delegation lodged a complaint about Carey's behaviour. That person, described as a female staff member in the Office of the Secretary of Defence, asserted to investigators that on the delegation's first night in Moscow, July 15, Carey was drinking and speaking loudly in a hotel lounge about how he is "saving the world" and that his forces suffer from low morale.

The investigators said Carey, whom they interviewed at length on Sept. 4, seemed to forget substantial portions of what happened in Russia. The report also said that at times he clammed up or gave testimony at odds with others in the delegation.

"Maj. Gen. Carey was generally less credible than the other witnesses," the report said, adding that at times he was flippant and refused to answer certain questions.

"Gen. Carey either had a poor recall of significant events, perhaps due to his alcohol consumption, or was untruthful during the interview," the report said.

After interviews with seven delegation members, the investigators concluded that Carey "engaged in inappropriate behaviour" that amounted to "conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman," as defined in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

In response to the investigators' report, Carey received what the Air Force calls a "letter of counselling." That's a form of discipline for noncriminal misbehaviour.

In response to an AP request, the Air Force said Carey was not commenting on the investigation report.

After he was relieved of duty in October, Carey was reassigned as special assistant to the commander of Air Force Space Command, where he has no responsibility for nuclear weapons. He remains in that post.

The Air Force has commented only once about the Carey case since his firing was announced Oct. 11. In mid-November, the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, told a group of reporters that Carey had stumbled in a way that could not be tolerated, despite Carey's long career and his record of accomplishment.

Welsh said Carey told him, "I've embarrassed myself, my Air Force, I'm sorry.

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