Armed Services Head: Air Force Needs Shake-Up
The head of the Senate Armed Services Committee said today that new Air Force leaders must fix the problems at the beleaguered service, which has been under fire for mishandling some of its nuclear responsibilities, The Associated Press reports.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he acknowledges it's "a very, very difficult time" for the service while speaking at the opening of a confirmation hearing for two men nominated to take the place of Air Force leadership fired last month.
Michael Donley is nominated to be the new Air Force Secretary and Gen. Norton Schwartz has been chosen to be its chief of staff.
Their predecessors, former Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne and former Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley resigned under pressure in June after a series of missteps.
Some of those problems include:
-- Last summer, 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.
A simple error in a missile storage room led to mistakes at every turn, as ground crews failed to notice the warheads, and as security teams and flight crew members failed to provide adequate oversight and check the cargo thoroughly, The Post's Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus reported. An elaborate nuclear safeguard system, nurtured during the Cold War and infused with rigorous accounting and command procedures, was utterly debased, the investigation's early results showed.
The event triggered a rare "Bent Spear" incident report that enraged Pentagon leaders and spurred new questions about nuclear safety systems.
-- Questions about the Air Force's massive acquisition operations were spurred by 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.
The contract to supply the tankers had originally been awarded to Boeing, but was withdrawn in 2004 over a procurement scandal that resulted in Boeing and Air Force officers being sent to prison.
After Boeing snagged a $20 billion contract to lease tankers, the Air Force's former procurement chief, Darleen A. Druyun, admitted that she favored Boeing while negotiating for a job with the company.
Druyun and Boeing's former chief financial officer went to prison, and Boeing agreed with the Justice Department to pay $615 million -- the biggest penalty ever paid by a defense contractor -- to settle allegations of misconduct on the tanker deal and others.
-- Congress criticized the service for a $50 million contract to update the Thunderbirds air show. Lawmakers said the deal "raises serious questions about the role played" by senior Air Force officials in possibly steering the work to cronies, The Post's Josh White reported.
-- 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, The Post's Robert O'Harrow reported.
In October, after questions were raised about the arrangment, Riechers was found dead in an apparent suicide.
By Derek Kravitz |
July 22, 2008; 10:14 AM ET
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