Pentagon Forces Out Air Force Chiefs
A long, bumpy flight at the Air Force came to an abrupt end yesterday, at least for the leadership. Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley resigned under pressure earlier today after Pentagon brass decided they'd had enough.
The Air Force problems became acute last summer, when a crew of U.S. airmen mistakenly transported six live nuke warheads from North Dakota's Minot Air force Base to a Lousiana air base. The event triggered a rare "Bent Spear" incident report that enraged Pentagon leaders and spurred new questions about nuclear safety systems.
The Air Force also had to contend with questions about its massive acquisition operations. Those questions include the handling of a $40 billion refueling tanker contract announced in February. The award went unexpectedly to Northrop Grumman and its partner, European Aeronautic Defence and Space, not to incumbent Boeing. Critics said the deal will mean the loss of thousands of American jobs to European factories.
The service also is under fire from Congress this year for a $50 million contract to update the Thunderbirds air show. Lawmakers said an investigative report about the deal "raises serious questions about the role played" by senior Air Force officials in possibly steering the work to cronies.
Last year, there were also embarrassing questions about the Air Force's dealings with a tax-exempt charity called Commonwealth Research Institute, or CRI. The Air Force arranged for CRI to pay $26,788 to Charles D. Riechers, a senior civilian official who was awaiting White House confirmation of his nomination as principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisition.
Riechers and other Air Force officials told The Post that he was hired temporarily through CRI's contract. But Riechers said he did no work directly for the organization and instead focused on Air Force projects that had nothing to do with CRI. The Air Force official said Riechers was retained under an arrangement that is widely used in the Pentagon because he had special talents to help on research, development and modernization programs.
In October, after questions were raised about the arrangment, Riechers was found dead in an apparent suicide. The FBI and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service have launched a probe of Air Force contracts with CRI and its parent, Concurrent Technologies.
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