Downfall of Vice-Admiral Timothy Giardina is latest embarrassment for America’s missile men, amid low morale and a string of public scandals
By day, Vice-Admiral Timothy Giardina was one of the US Navy’s most senior figures – as deputy head of US Strategic Command, he was number two in command of America’s nuclear arsenal.
But by night, at the Horseshoe casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, he was known as Navy Tim, a heavy gambler who was accused of making his own $500 poker chips and eventually banned.
Documents unveiled under a Freedom of Information Act request depict him as an habitual poker player, spending more than 1,000 hours – or 15 hours per week – at the Horseshoe’s tables in the 18 months before being caught playing three phoney chips in June 2013.
However, one man’s ruin may be a symptom of a wider malaise at the heart of America’s nuclear deterrent.
Earlier this year, other details emerged of a force in crisis. An ageing stock of missiles, corroded launch silos and an uncertain role in a post-Cold War world have sent morale plunging among the men and women who call themselves Missileers.
The result, according to several studies, has been a string of leadership, training and disciplinary problems, which prompted a $10 billion root-and-branch overhaul announced a little over a week ago.
No one at the Horseshoe Casino would have known any of that or that the man at the tables was a three-star admiral.
Gambling is not banned in the services, even among those with sensitive roles – despite the risk that anyone accumulating substantial debts could be vulnerable to bribery or blackmail.
Last year Maj Gen Michael Carey was removed as head of the 20th Air Force, the command responsible for 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles, for what was initially described as “personal misbehaviour” during an overseas trip. The Air Force Inspector General later described late-night drinking sessions at a hotel in Russia with foreign women, including the “cigar shop lady”.
In March, nine midlevel nuclear commanders were sacked after it emerged that more than 90 crew members responsible for missile launches were swapping the answers of proficiency tests.
This month, Chuck Hagel, the US defence secretary, admitted the country’s nuclear arsenal had fallen into disrepair and needed billions of dollars of upgrades.
Among the most serious findings were blast doors over silos that no longer sealed and that units responsible for America’s intercontinental ballistic missiles had been forced to share a single spanner to tighten bolts on Minuteman 3 warheads, FedExing the tool between three bases.
Full article: Nuclear commander lost job after being caught playing fake poker chips (The Telegraph)